Thursday, April 28, 2022

Thrill by Patricia Wallace

by Patricia Wallace
1990 Zebra

A billionaire opens a theme park, imaginatively called "The Park". At the end, several rides malfunction, causing several fatalities. In the middle, several hundred pages of nothing. Part of the problem is that the story is a disaster novel, like Towering Inferno or Earthquake, but it's written, and branded, as a horror novel. A story can be both, Jaws comes to mind, but this effectively is a mild drama until the last few pages, though with a foreboding sense that something bad is going to happen from constant foreshadowing that goes nowhere.

The Park itself is vague. There's a high ticket price, with the implication that this is an immersive interactive setup like Westworld, but it isn't  There are three levels. The first two are standard amusement park rides, though the ride cars are usually pods. A roller coaster, a whitewater ride, a dark ride, the usual. If you score enough points, somehow, you go to level 3, which is a paintball game in the woods with robots. The book is set in the future year 1992, and there are a couple of touches, like the guests' ID card doubling as a credit card, which I don't think Disney had by that time.

The story, such that it is, follows the billionaire, his young engineer genius, a nurse, some underprivileged children there for the grand opening, and a couple of guests. There are some minor injuries in the rides, mostly the guests fault. One of the guests gets himself killed (offpage) in an accident while attempting industrial espionage, which is the only horrific element in the fist 90% of the book. At the end the kids fight the robots, who malfunction and shoot lightning out of their hands instead of paintballs, and some guests are killed in malfunctioning rides, all but a couple off page.

Along the way we're teased sabotage, insect swarms, and the ghost of a murderous hermit as the face of the eventual horror. This don't come across as red herrings as much as foreshadowing scenes that never happen. In the end it's magnetic anomalies. Maybe, whatever. The book even runs down the lost threads, not to wrap them up, more to say "I didn't forget, I just don't care".

Unscary, nonsensical, unfocused, dull, and overlong.

Kindle ebook and paperback from Amazon

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