Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Vicious: A Novel of Suspense / Bryan W. Alaspa

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Suspense/Horror

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“Multi-talented author, Bryan Alaspa, is a Chicago native who has dreamed of being an author since third grade when he first sat down at his mother’s typewriter and pounded out his first short story. It wasn’t very good, but it did give him the habit for writing that he has not been able to shake since.

He is the author of several works, both fiction and non-fiction. His non-fiction works include the history and true crime genres, whilst his fiction is available in the horror, suspense, thriller, and mystery categories.”

For more, visit Alaspa’s website.


“When successful author, Jeremy Liden, takes his friends up to his vacation cabin in the wilds of Wisconsin he was hoping for a relaxing weekend. What he gets instead is a never-ending ordeal of snarling terror as he and his guests become trapped inside by an unrelenting menace that does not understand mercy.

By the time the night is through, not everyone is going to make it home in one piece.”


Vicious combines the on-the-edge-of-your-chair, what’s-going-to-happen-next intensity of a suspense novel with some horrifying events that would have obvious appeal to fans of the horror genre. There are also lessons to be learned, some intentional, others not. Intended is how early environment affects later behavior, in this instance animals, but you might extrapolate it to humans as well.

The unintentional lesson is that, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you also can’t judge a book by its provenance. Although I only review indie books, my definition of indie is broad, including both self-published books and those put out by small “indie” publishers. There is an assumption some readers have that self-published books are shoddily edited at best and much of the time any editing is done by the author. While undeniably true of some, many self-published authors put their books through a quality control process that may well be more extensive than one of the Big 6 publishers would. I know at least one author whose books run a gauntlet of three edits (at different places in the process), four rounds of proofreading, and a team of beta readers, before release.

The flip side is that just because a book has a publisher, doesn’t mean it was adequately edited and proofread. The assumption is that the publisher will provide the quality control and any polishing needed. In the case of Vicious, they didn’t. Although the proofreading didn’t exceed my threshold for these kind of errors, it was close, with several wrong, missing, and misspelled words, plus instances of multiple periods (full stops, if you prefer) at the end of a sentence and words with no spaces between them.

The bigger issues were some plot holes or inconsistencies, plus an annoying tendency to repeat the same words close together, both of which I’d have expected an editor to either fix or kick back to the author for rework

An example of an inconsistency is in one scene where a policeman sees a puddle of something that “was liquid and the smell told him it was blood.” Then within a few paragraphs we have this:

He could smell something in the air, but his brain was not, at first, able to process it. It was a sickly sweet smell that he knew was, at once, familiar, and entirely alien.

Of course this turns out to be blood. But we (and he) already knew that.

Repetition of words or entire phrases can sometimes be a good thing, giving the words a rhythm or emphasis that drives home an important point. Johnny Cochran’s repetition of the phrase, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” during his closing arguments in the O.J. Simpson trial, is one example. Repeating a word can sometimes act as glue, tying two thoughts near each other together (as when I say a word again in the next sentence).

However, more often repetition is, depending on the situation, either jarring or boring in the same way as a monotone speaking voice. In those instances, using another word (like using “say a word again” instead of “repeat” a couple sentences ago) or rewording, can fix the issue. A case in point is this sentence: “Jeremy Liden awoke to a bright, sunshine-filled morning and blinked his eyes as the rays pierced his eyes.” Doesn’t the double use of the word ‘eyes’ jar? Here, a simple rewording, by dropping ‘his eyes’ (what else is he going to be blinking?) fixes the problem. Another example is these three sentences in a row starting with “he” and some verb. “He stepped onto the stairs. He descended slowly, always prepared at any moment, to run back up. He saw nothing and heard nothing.” Changing the middle sentence to “Descending slowly, he was always prepared …” is one way this snippet might have been made a bit less monotone.

On the positive side, we all learn from lessons, even if they’re unintentional.


Some adult language. Graphic violence that may not be suitable for some ages.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and other proofing errors.

Rating: ** Two stars

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