A young man moves into an odd apartment building in Los Angeles. Inexplicably cheap to rent, he starts discovering strange facts about it. There are mysteries about the building that even the other occupants noticed before he came there. Temperature issues, a lighting fixture that turns any bulb into a blacklight, green mutant cockroaches, an elevator that hasn't worked in decades, facts that don't add up. And then there is the door covered with four padlocks, the one that goes to apartment 14...
14 by Peter Clines is an interesting novel. If you were to check the reviews around, you wouldn't be able to toss a rock without getting a comparison to the TV show Lost (it's even right there on the cover!). And that is not a bad comparison - 14 builds steam based on its mysteries, the unexplained weirdness, and its characters. It starts with one character, Nate, but builds to a larger cast. It's also much like Scooby Doo and their mystery gang, a similarity the novel not only touches on, but grabs and runs with to the finish line, making it one of the common aspects of the banter between the characters. As much as it seems like it could veer into being a horror novel, it's not. It's mysterious, it's scifi at times, there are bad things that happen, but it's never full on Stephen King, Clive Barker, or Bentley Little. If you hoped it was an homage to Silent Hill 4 from the cover, you're out of luck.
Despite all that, I love this novel.
It does start slow. At the beginning, it's just following Nate as he moves in and discovers stuff. At times that feels a little mechanical; I even got a bit of déjà vu like I was playing a point and click adventure where it was go here, move that, cutscene, go here, do this, cutscene. But once it opens up and he becomes friends with other members of his apartment building, it really gets going and you enjoy the Mystery Gang interactions. Of course, after about a third through the novel to the midpoint, a different uncomfortable feeling crawls up on you. Having seen Lost, you might wonder if there's ever going to be a satisfying payoff to the mysteries the novel keeps building. You wonder if the ending is just going to be disappointment, the mysteries built for the sake of mysteries, never making sense in explanation, only in the teased weirdness. Get through that and you do end with a novel that makes sense, one with a satisfying conclusion that is reasonable for what has been presented. That was true for me, though not for some other reviewers. I also didn't hate the ending of Lost as much as some people do, so your results may vary.
Some notes on the edition. I got a paperback from my library, so I have no idea if it was a special advance edition or anything. But my copy had no page numbers. Only the author's name and the novel title were written in barely visible ink at the tops of pages. And sometimes the line formatting was off. In a few cases there was an end quote on its own line at the end of a paragraph, not pulled to the previous line. Nothing preventing me from enjoying the experience, but no page numbers means you should have a trusty bookmark on hand to keep your place.
Ultimately, whether you enjoy this novel depends mostly on what you like. Don't like I-don't-know-what's-going-on mysteries? Sorry, keep looking. Aren't willing to suspend your disbelief for weirdness and scifi? Nope. Need your strange home stories with blood and large body counts? No. But if you like strange stuff, if you want something different, read this. Despite my reference, if you were intrigued by Silent Hill 4, read this. Been wanting a modern day Twilight Zone, a more grounded Lost, an adult Scooby Gang, a primetime miniseries Lovecraft? Then read this. That's really the highest compliment I can give a book.
14 on Amazon