Terminal by Michaelbrent Collings
Book Review by Shane Douglas Keene
I’m sitting in a hospital, in an over-comfortable chair designed for old people, or broken ones like me. As I wait to have digital imaging done, I situate myself in a corner where it is not possible for anyone to sit by me or talk to me. I don’t do well around groups of strangers due to social anxiety, so I build mental barriers around myself, convince my panic that I’m all alone here, in a psychological fog of sorts. Isolated. And as my mind settles and my personal demons quiet, considering these eccentric habits of mine, my thoughts turn to a book I read recently, a book that just went live on Amazon on Wednesday and now lives inside me like a parasite. It’s a narrative that deals with these very themes, of fog, isolation, psychological duress. In vicious fashion, Michaelbrent Collings introduces us to a motley selection of disparate passengers, lone souls waiting in a bus terminal for connections to their various destinations. Destinations that many are doomed to never reach. Outside in the night, a fog has gathered itself around the building, making it as an island in a forlorn stream, alone and vulnerable in the ethereal darkness. Inside, this gathering of hapless travelers, all differences aside, share two things in common, two things that are about to influence their fates in horrific fashion. One is that each individual in this place harbors a dark and guilty secret, the other, that they’re about to experience the waking nightmare that is The Cycle.
In Terminal, Michaelbrent Collings once again does what he does best, as he’s done previously in books like Apparition and Strangers, and again in The Loon, a book described as “A Novel of Darkest Terror.” It is exactly that and what makes it that way is a thing all Collings’ books have in common: Atmosphere. He imbues his setting with deep foreboding and dread, heavy and oppressive as the fog that has seemingly engulfed the world, and it serves to infuse this chronicle of madness and brutality with a hardcore center of absolute menace. The author is a heavy metal powerhouse when it comes to building tight, claustrophobic sets and peopling them with often amoral, fucked up people who serve to bring the scene to life and shore up the sense of apprehension that this story in particular exudes. Terminal is an unapologetic nod to the classic horror of the ‘70s and ‘80s, bleeding tension from every paragraph. And while themes of extreme isolation are prevalent in the genre, in Collings’ capable hands it’s a whole new ballgame. You might believe going in that you know where this thing is going, especially with the advent of the fog, but you’ll be dead wrong, and you won’t see what’s coming until it’s well and truly upon you.
One of the things that really made this book work for me and made it zip by at an alarmingly fast pace was a combination of a group of exceptionally well-rounded characters and snappy, believable dialogue. Particularly fascinating and engaging to me were the conversations or monologues involving Adam S. Miles, a high-functioning autistic man, and my favorite character in the book. He’s an extremely endearing person who, because of his disability, has an inherent need to make things make sense. And, while I could talk about that one character for pages and pages, let me just say in short: I fucking loved Adam S. Miles and I believe you will too. Not since Polly and the Bear in Jordan Harper’s novel, She Rides Shotgun, have I felt so in tune with a fictional creation and I know Adam S. Miles will live in my brain and heart for a long time to come. For some reason, his quirks and eccentricities made him one of the most likable and sympathetic characters I’ve come across in a book of this type. And his is just a single sampling of the absolutely delicious backstories and fucked up secrets that every one of these individuals has. Michaelbrent Collings has a knack for feeding you backstory in bite-size bits. He’s an apt student of the human condition, and it was in the discovery of the things that make these individuals tick, the things they want to keep hidden, that I found the most enjoyment in this book.
Before I cease my babble and let you escape me, I want to tell you one more thing I found fascinating about this book. I’ll do it in the form of a question. How the hell do you take a group of people, drop them in a claustrophobic setting, essentially completely motionless, and yet make your story read like an action-packed thrill ride? The answer? I don’t know. You write like Michaelbrent Collings, I guess. But that’s the gist of it, anyway. Terminal is a hard-edged, brutal, sometimes exceptionally violent thrill-fest of a novel that I blazed through in two surprisingly short sittings. So, let me leave you with this advice. If you’re planning to start reading this book–I highly recommend you do–make sure you block out a large chunk of time. This motherfucker has a grip you won’t easily escape once you’re caught up in it.
Buy Terminal from Amazon