Score: 94+/100 (9.4+ out of 10)
Gothic Revival by Michael Mullin is a very special novel. It's a book that spoke to us. It seemed tailor made for people like us: creators, writers, authors, filmmakers, and dreamers.
The characters in this book are SO relatable for people like us, people who love to write, publish, and make stuff. People who dream of turning their books into a movie, a video game, or a toy line. People who keep a notepad/composition book on their bed stand in case they get an idea for a plot twist or character at night.
That's the kind of reader that this book is written for. We were all in and all on board!
This book follows a collection of classmates/friends from the same graduate school's creative writing program, reuniting after years apart and each pursuing their own creative endeavors and careers. They are summoned together by one of their more successful and strange classmates, Eric Asher, a critically-acclaimed screenwriter and film director who has recently become an executive producer. Eric's seemingly innocuous invite with the header “Don't ignore opportunity” turns out to be a cryptic, inside-reference for his former classmates, leading them to compete in a ghost writing contest similar to the one that Lord Byron held in Geneva, all in the confines of a building that is apparently haunted.
Among the characters is Chris, a man who Eric cruelly pranked at the end of schooling with a mock arrest that led to him suffering an anxiety attack. This highlights Eric's cruel and unscrupulous nature despite his blinding charisma, wealth, and success. Joining Chris is Anne, his wife.
There's also Fiona, one of the more interesting characters, who is a spiritual medium able to hear the voices of ghosts. It is stated that she has some degree of clairvoyance. She is often referred to by the nickname “Woodstock” because of the bird character from Peanuts appearing on many of the things she owned in college.
Finally, there's Lauren, arguably the main protagonist. Lauren is a teacher who seems to be the one most suspicious of Eric's motives and ultimate intentions. She also has the rare but useful ability to dislocate her own thumb.
Despite this colorful cast of characters, it ultimately boils down to Lauren being able to stop the obviously-evil Eric. What's a bit strange about this is that the author had really given us the impression that they were trying to build an ensemble cast of characters: a cast in which each of the characters played an equally important role. Ultimately, this was Lauren's story to finish, which seemed both fitting and bizarre as she was arguably the flattest character (next to Anne) with the least to offer. In fact, Lauren's apprehension and ability to dislocate her thumb seemed like the only things that helped her to stand out.
It's not unheard of for the most unremarkable in a group of characters to be given the most remarkable role, that of the final girl. You could make the argument that her rather close, intimate relationship with Eric in grad school helped build to her being the main protagonist as she had the most personal relationship with the antagonist. However, shouldn't Chris have a personal vendetta against him too?
Unfortunately, when this becomes the Lauren Show, the other characters practically seem to fall of the map and become irrelevant, inanimate objects. They might as well not even be involved, sadly. It's unfortunate because Chris had a personal score to settle with Eric, and Fiona had the greatest promise of the characters given her ability.
All in all, though, this is a book with some very relatable characters and moments. For example, there's are instances in which the authors/artists find out if they're finalists for an award or not. The ones who are experience relief and joy, the others experience the crushing feelings of disappointment and failure. This contest was founded following such an event. Being an author and a creator is frustrating. It's hard to market yourself. It's hard to get your name/brand out there. It's hard to stay motivated and to not stop believing.
The author gets it. And for that, we really enjoyed this book.
Check it out on Amazon!