3:59 - Gretchen McNeil

   For as long as I've been reading books, I haven't been reading much horror. From the two actual horror novels I've read, Horrorstor and 172 Hours On The Moon, I know it's a genre that I enjoy, but i also know I only enjoy it if it's an extremely unique concept and the novel focuses primarily on the element of horror. 

   3:59, a science fiction novel for the most part, resides i the horror section of my library and I still have trouble understanding why. 

   As a science fiction novel, it at least delivers a healthy serving of conspiracies, wild interpretations of physics, and a fair share of that delectably frustrating confusion. 

   For those of you who rush to be filled in, 3:59 is a science fiction narrative centering on Josie, a physics-loving high-schooler with scientist parents and every reason to explore alternate realities. An opportunity presents itself and everything goes from there. 

   Now Josie isn't exactly a prophetic "special" character like the heroines we're used to. But let me just state for the record how fantastic this is. She's a perfectly ordinary person, but doesn't lack depth. We really, truly understand the inner thoughts of someone who isn't a universe-shatteringly important rebel or--forgive the scoff--"divergent." 

   That being said, her character acts and thnks really predictably, and though there's no doubt character development happened, there doesn't seem to be much difference in the prose and thoughts of the protagonist. The only changes readers can notice are the ones directly pointed out for them. 

   3:59 is supposed to be a horror novel, as well, but, as it turns out, it's really only an adventure in alternate dimensions with the occasional suspenseful scene. So much of the novel is spent like it's simply a contemporary in another universe. It also kind of drags along and seems dull and uneventful for a time as a work of science fiction. I'd guess that maybe the fact that it has those fantastical and unreal elements, it's supposed to get away with being boring while those things aren't actively causing chaos in the story. 

   The romantic sub-plot was rather sub-par as well. It falls into the trap of having a romance that pushes the plot along in places where it resolves to be static, but the plot doesn't push the romance along when it it becomes overused and repetitive. 

   3:59's greatest fallacy lies the fact that it let down a part of me that wanted to get scared enough to piss myself. A lot of authors seem to hold the idea that something known but unknown, faceless, but not nameless, is inherently scary, but when you tell me there's a monster lurking in the darkness, I imagine a dumb-looking flappy-bat-thing.

   If anything in this book is truly scary, it's the government and how it handles the situation at hand, which 3:59 could have avoided downplaying from the beginning!

   The real suspense in this novel comes from The Grid, an illustrious government agency that charges hefty fees to keep an average citizen and their family alive. 

   Knowing the alternate history in a world like this, where going outside in the dark or even sleeping with the lights off is, fantastic and a far-underdeveloped and overlooked part of the story. I honestly would have plowed through a history textbook or two from this world and I wish the history featured in 3:59 had been dwelled upon just a little bit longer. I'd be satisfied if it were just longer than a few paragraphs. 

   Some of the most enticing and intense scenes in the book revolve around investigating and problem-solving, as well as the discoveries of injustice woven into the supposedly "protective" system.

   Corruption carries so much more weight than just the creatures and horror themselves, and when it starts coming down to how the people in power abuse and take advantage of the situation they've been placed in to gain power. 

   That's the horror in this story. That's the suspense. 

   It's also why I'm convinced Gretchen McNeil should write political mysteries instead. 

   This book does indeed have merit, but you need to temporarily suspend a little disbelief, brush off a little romance, and skip past the scenes with the dumb-looking flappy-bat things. 

   3:59 derailed from the right focal point but fear was still there, even if it wasn't pertaining to any of the things you might find in the horror section. 

   (But security agencies just got a lot scarier.)