Saturday, April 12, 2014

Book Review- Down from Ten by J. Daniel Sawyer


What really happens when eight highly artistic friends get together for ten days of hedonistic seclusion? Normally, a lot of creativity and adult situations, peppered with some meaningful connections and catching up after a year apart. But throw a blizzard and avalanche into the mix, and suddenly, tension builds. And when unexplained things start to happen, insanity becomes a huge possibility. Can this group stave off cabin fever and madness in the face of mysterious troubles that threaten to tear them apart? And who is the mysterious cloaked shadow that wanders the house at night, cleaning?

That was my summary. Here's the summary I got from

You can make the whole world end, if you just count down from ten...
They shared a dream of a haven. A place of beauty and freedom. Eight friends gathered in a mountain chalet removed from the grief and wreckage of their lives.

Now, trapped thirty feet beneath the snow, huddled together waiting for rescue, they hear the voices in the dark. They see the scratches on the walls. And every night they share a new vision of memories, and shadows, and a mysterious power reaching in for them from the cold outside. When the darkness comes, can their friendship survive the power of their dreams?

Being an artistic soul, this sort of retreat has always been something that I’ve wanted to do. Technology can so easily take over that falling back into a disconnected state for even a day is challenging. Seriously; try losing your phone sometime. But cutting themselves off from the outside world for ten days is just what this group does, though of course, that cutoff becomes more severe when snow completely covers the entire house. Seclusion is much more difficult to deal with when it’s forced. Control is completely removed, leaving these friends (and a few newcomers who aren’t quite used to their attitudes and chemistry) at a loss for how to maintain the peace between them.

One thing about artists is that we are some serious control freaks. Speaking as a writer, I thoroughly enjoy playing God on my characters and plots. Take away control from people like me, and tempers flare. It’s like backing a wild animal into a corner. Defensiveness reigns, and eight such people are trapped together in a house, control having been stolen from all of them. This novel is a huge study in human nature, and it’s not pretty.

Sawyer has some serious writing chops. He knows how to drawn his readers (or listeners) into the setting, to place a visual before the eyes as clear as any HDTV image. He has such a masterful use of analogies that the entire English language is his toy. He makes the language dance to his tune, building a compelling story and characters that are unbelievably real.

The production of the podcast version lives up to the writing. Sawyer himself reads the narration, and the full cast of voice actors has proven to have a complete understanding of the characters they voiced. There were, perhaps, one or two tiny areas in the entire production where the background music or something got in the way of the book, but they were easily forgettable and passed quickly. Like the novel, the podcast itself is a work of art with just as much draw as the words.

My Thoughts
What. A. Ride! I couldn’t get enough of Down from Ten. Each episode left me wanting to listen to the next one, and it was almost depressing when I had to turn off the iPod for the day. I had no trouble sorting out the characters, and not just because they all had different voices. Their speech patterns, their personalities, and their actions were so clearly them that it simply couldn’t be someone else doing or saying what they did. I was on edge right up to the end, and the final episode left me wide-eyed with a racing heart. It answered so much but still left some things to my imagination, so that I didn’t feel like I had overeaten on the feast of a story this was.

Would I recommend it?
Dear God, yes. Keep in mind that this novel is not for the young or overly sensitive. But if you’re not easily offended, or if you like a little bit of controversy and tension in your reading, then you need to grab Down from Ten. It is more than worth the time! It gets a shameless 5 out of 5 stars!

You can find more info on the book on the author's website.

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