Brett McBean “The Invasion” Review

Posted: June 26, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 235 Pages

Release Date: May 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for The Invasion

My wife and I watch a ton of true crime shows – The Investigation Discovery channel is usually always on when we are watching TV – so when I read the synopsis for The Invasion I was hooked. This novel utilizes a real-life scenario and when you throw in the fact that the novel is loosely inspired by true events, I knew I was in for an adrenaline-filled read!

McBean’s The Invasion starts off with a bone chilling introduction that sets the stage for the story. Obviously you know that something terrible is about to unfold, but McBean utilizes an unassuming everyday task and assigns it a creepy quality that sets off warning bells in your imagination even before you step foot into the house located on 6 Hooper Crescent. The house is the home of Debra Hillsboro, a romance novelist who has gathered her family and friends at her home to celebrate Christmas. Debra is going through a bit of a rough patch lately as her books aren’t selling like they used to and she is going through a divorce.

Even with all the turmoil swirling around her life, her home is the one place Debra can feel safe. Debra has lived in the Carmela house for almost 30 years, spending a majority of her life and writing career in the home. However, as Debra and her guests settle in for the night, her illusion of safety is shattered when a group of six strangers break into the home and take everyone hostage. The apparent leader of the group – who calls himself Black Metal Freak –  tells Debra they are there simply to rob her and that if her and her guests cooperate, everything will be okay. However, as the night unfolds, it becomes obvious that the group has sinister ulterior motives and things only get worse when the real leader – Mr. Fear – arrives. Facing the group of intruders, Debra and her family must dig deep within themselves in a struggle to survive the most frightening night of their lives.

The Invasion is a pretty bleak and violent read and there is a lot to enjoy for both horror and thriller fans. There are a lot of things McBean does well in The Invasion, starting with great descriptions of the house, which is the focal point of the novel as both a setting and a character. The house is given a great deal of characterization and Debra even refers to it by name. Also the scene setting where we first get a good look at the house, it is described almost like a flesh and blood person.

Built in nineteen-sixty-nine, the four-bedroom single story split-level had been well-loved, but, like its resident of twenty-seven years, she was starting to look her age.

Making the house a character was a great touch and I like that based on the amount of action that occurs in each room, readers are given an equivalent amount of memories that took place there. For instance, the lounge is a central location in the novel and where a lot of violence occurs and we learn that this was Debra’s safest place. The place where she went to read, entertain guests, and even work through some of the challenging spots in her writing. McBean does a great job of weaving these memories throughout the story to bring the setting into vivid focus and to highlight how all of these years of important memories will now be completely overshadowed by a night of violence and depravity.

The house even has an intriguing history complete with has dark rumors of ritual sacrifices, human burials and cult gatherings. A lot of these rumors trace back to the creepy producer that owned the house before Debra and he seemed to be hiding something. This sort of ambiguity about the house’s past helps build the atmosphere of the novel because it raises the question of if the house is just a house or a beacon of sorts for evil. It is probably nothing more than a coincidence, but when you also take into account the hair-raising dream Debra’s brother Peter had years ago, it really makes you question things.

The events of the novel build slowly at first with quiet, indistinguishable noises that can be attributed to just about any everyday occurrence and the stress weighing on Debra and her family blinds them to the fact that something may be wrong. These simple actions – a click of a door or thinking you hear people talking in another room – aren’t scary by themselves, but McBean uses these small moments to build tension since readers know something sinister is lurking within the pages of The Invasion.

McBean wastes little time in introducing the strangers that invade Debra’s home. At first glance, these strangers seem like an ordinary robbery team. However, throughout the course of The Invasion, this group proves they are anything but ordinary. They are a nihilistic group known as the “Fear Squad” and the members use code names like Black Metal Freak, Mad Vixen, Night Crawler, Child of Osiris, and Raven Queen. The group seems to be very methodical despite their young age and overactive behavior, but their sense of entitlement to do whatever they want occasionally makes them sloppy. While their plans hit snags along the way, they make up for any mistakes with appalling savagery.

I thought the portrayal of the Fear Squad was perfect. It is interesting that the Fear Squad are all tech savvy (almost to their detriment) and that the origins of their group are born from that reliance on technology. It is clear the members of the group have impulse control problems and a sense of detachment from reality, which influences their sadistic nature. It is hard to talk about the main thing that makes the Fear Squad such an interesting group without spoiling parts of the novel, but I will just say that the group has a very interesting origin story and I think there could be a whole novel dedicated to just how the group got started. The only real complaint I had with The Invasion is that at times the members of the Fear Squad seemed kind of flat. They were well-developed as a group, but as individuals they sometimes faded into the background and were kind of overshadowed by Mr. Fear.

Mr. Fear is the mysterious leader of the Fear Squad and while the collective as a whole serves as a very interesting threat, there is something about Mr. Fear that makes him standout. He has a sort of charisma that demands respect from the other members of the group and they idolize him because they think he has special powers. Now, I don’t want to spoil too much about his claim to fame within the group, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a bit of truth to his claims. I personally think he is just a sick man who uses his charismatic qualities to control the group, but there are a few instances where he seems to exhibit the very power he claims to possess. Is he just a normal man or is there something more lurking underneath the surface?

While McBean does a great job cultivating a horrific threat with his characterization of the Fear Squad, I really enjoyed his characterization of Debra and her family. The Invasion is a richly characterized piece and getting to know the intimate details about the characters through flashbacks and their interactions with each other makes you emotionally invested in their fight for survival. They also go through a transformation as the events unfold and it helps make the characters more dynamic. Paul is portrayed as being fairly timid, a stark contrast to his bold and brave boyfriend that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. However, as the night unfolds, Paul exhibits a bravery and strength that he didn’t even know he had in him. Debra’s niece Taryn is probably my favorite character of the novel. Even in the face of paralyzing fear, she shows a lot of bravery and intelligence in her attempt to stop the Fear Squad. She is resourceful and arms herself with household items and fights back against the group with everything she has.

I also liked that the story was contained to just one location – the Carmela house. By keeping the events limited to one location and one night, McBean crafts a claustrophobic atmosphere that transports readers into the story and ratchets up the tension. I also liked the format McBean used to break up the novel. Rather than go with traditional chapters, he breaks the story up by what room the events take place in. Sometimes that makes for short, punchy chapters which are great for the pacing of the novel. It is a small touch, but I liked the inclusion of the map at the beginning of the story. It is nice to be able to flip back to the map and track the events of the story as they unfold and makes for an engaging reading experience.

The Invasion is a terrifying novel that offers a glimpse at real-life horror and some of the darkest behaviors exhibited by people. Home invasions are a terrifying crime and while we may not consciously think about it, it is a fear that is universal. Our homes are supposed to be places where we feel safe and the idea of a stranger shattering that feeling make for an absolutely frightening premise that McBean captures perfectly. While there are plenty of home invasion stories out there, McBean puts a pretty unique spin on the genre that helps this one stand out. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Brett McBean’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase The Invasion: Amazon (U.S.), Amazon (Australia), Amazon (U.K.), Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Invasion tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Invasion! – #TheInvasion #homeinvasion #cults

The Invasion Synopsis

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Praise for Brett McBean

“McBean’s voice is one that should be heard – a hint of Laymon and Koontz, yet distinctly his own.” —Brian Keene, author of The Rising and Terminal

“Brett McBean is as brash and brutal as a young Jack Ketchum. He visits the dark rooms inside us all.” — Scott Nicholson, author of The Manor and The Farm

The Invasion, by Brett McBean, is a startlingly bleak home invasion story, but one that is wonderfully written. McBean relies on his characters and atmosphere to bring the biggest scares, along with the frightening threat of home invasion that many readers will bring to the reading all by themselves.” — Michael Patrick Hicks, author of Convergence

Brett McBean Biography

Brett_McBean

Brett McBean is an award-winning horror and thriller author. His books, which include The MotherThe Last Motel and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, have been published in Australia, the U.S., and Germany.

He’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards, and he won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

Find out more at: brettmcbean.com

 

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