"The Ridge" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Written by John Rector
2017, 284 pages, Fiction
Released on April 25th, 2017
If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I like to break away from the standard review format when I read a book that demands to be treated differently. John Rector’s The Ridge is one of those books. It brings together the best elements of a plethora of genres and shares DNA with some great classics while being its own thing and sounding the way Rector’s novels sound. Creepy, mysterious, and packed with the kind of tension that keeps readers turning pages, this is one those books I could have reviewed for a literary fiction venue, a crime site, and a horror venue. Ultimately, I went with a horror venue because most crime readers already know Rector, and it’s time the horror crowd catches up.
Willow Ridge seems like a perfect place to live. Pretty houses, quiet, lots of green, and perfectly manicured lawns populate every street. For Megan and Tyler Stokes, it represents a big change in pace and scenery, but also an opportunity to start a new chapter in their lives together. However, soon after moving in, Megan, an artist who works from home, starts noticing weird things that spoil the atmosphere of perfection the community obviously wishes to exude. Tension builds and soon Megan finds herself in an ugly altercation with a neighbor that ends in an unexpected and very ugly way. The young woman can see in her head the chaos that will follow, but none of it comes to pass. Instead, things take an even stranger turn and everything Megan thought she knew, including her suspicions about Willow Ridge, are just the tip of the iceberg. What follows is a taut, creepy, fast-paced tale of deep secrets, impossible science, and deception that walks the line between a science fiction narrative, a thriller, and a mystery.
This is where I would pick two or three great things about a book and give you a paragraph for each. I won’t do that here. There are many things done right here, and giving each one an entire paragraph with a quote to prove it would lead to a 3k word review no one would read. Instead, I’ll give you five elements Rector does right and a few lines about them. Let’s get rolling:
- Pace. The Ridge comes it at just under 300 pages, but it reads like a novella. Great dialogue and short chapters help the narrative move forward at all times. Also, the more mysterious and uncanny the story gets, the quicker readers are forced to read in order to find out what’s going on.
- Atmosphere. Novels are rarely genuinely uncanny, and this one is. It starts firmly rooted in reality and then spins into an impossible world of secrecy and hidden agendas that leave Megan at the center of everything wondering what the hell is going on with everyone and everything.
- Diversity. As mentioned above, this novel brings together elements of crime, science fiction, and horror, to name a few genres. Rector is equally adept at all of them, and the result is a narrative that will satisfy readers of all those genres.
- Strong main character. To be blunt, I seldom care for rich white characters in novels. Feeling a connection to a wealthy woman who spends her days waiting for the muse at home is not something a lot of us can accomplish. In this case, while that was true at the start of the story, Rector writes in a way that Megan ends up being a relatable, lost, scared character we can all empathize with.
Ultimately, The Ridge is more than the sum of its parts. It’s eerie and entertaining. It also shares DNA with classics such as Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, the work of Philip K. Dick, and Bentley Little’s The Association. However, despite sharing that DNA, nothing about The Ridge feels rehashed or like a trope. Rector is a talented storyteller that, like Stephen Graham Jones, seems perfectly comfortable, and able, to jump from genre to genre in order to tell the story he wants to tell, and that’s exactly what he does here. I strongly suggest you snag a copy of this now. I also strongly suggest you take breaks from reading it to keep an eye on your neighbors.