Review: The Complex by Brian Keene

The Complex - Brian Keene

If Brian Keene is not exactly a household name, then he is at the very least quite well known within the horror community. Admittedly, I've not read many of his works (an error I hope to, as Keene would put it, "unfuck immediately"), but I consider myself a fan by way of his podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene, and social media presence. I respect and value him as an author, even if reader-me is still playing catch up. Frankly, the only prior works of his that I read were The Rising (which, frankly, I wasn't completely crazy about) and his short story "The Last Supper" from the Seize the Night vampire anthology (which I absolutely was crazy for). While The Rising was his first book and didn't quite do it for me, I saw immediately a huge growth in talent that the intervening years brought to bear in "The Last Supper."


The Complex, then, is only the second book of Keene's that I've read. Since starting it Sunday night and over the course of the last four days, I've bought a handful more of Keene's other titles and hit him up on Twitter to find out where I can score more stories about The Exit (and if you come across this review, Brian, thank you again. I've secured the appropriate anthologies and then some!), a recurring character I'm discovering only now thanks to this book. So, does that answer the question on whether or not I liked this book?


Written with a tight, cinematic pacing, Keene introduces us to his characters - a handful of apartment dwellers - through various POV chapters, wasting no time getting right into the action and dumping us into a full-bore violent romper-room of chaos and bloodshed by the end of chapter two. Things go awry just as new tenants Terri, and her son, Caleb, are moving in and confronted by a pack of naked crazies bearing an assortment of weapons, and soon enough the entirety of Pine Village Apartment's is under siege.


From there, it's action, action, action. The violence is quick and no-nonsense, and Keene writes the various scenarios very well, in quick and dirty fashion, careful not to overly prolong any given sequence while keeping things punchy.


Right from the outset, I could tell this would be a book I'd appreciate as Keene name-dropped a few of my favorite writers, like Chuck Wendig and Kelly Sue DeConnick, and colored the cast and settings with personal touches that I recalled Keene talking about on his podcast. I always like these little bits of personal experiences and flashes of an author's life bleeding onto the page (something that's never really avoidable, mind you, but recognizing these instances from Keene's discussions gave me a smile and a little bit of a welcome 'oh, hey! I remember that!' feeling).


Bottom line - this book is fun. Damn fun. I liked it a lot, from it's wonderfully diverse cast right down to the obese and nasty Tick Tock man, and an ending that (fondly, actually) echoed The Rising in some ways. It also compelled me to buy more of Keene's work, and that, perhaps more than anything, is the best mark of quality I can think of.