Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: The Cult of Me by Michael Brookes


Blurb of The Cult of Me from Goodreads:

For too long he dwelt apart, watched those who passed him by. With his unique abilities he entered their minds and inflicted terrible suffering upon them. They didn't even know who he was. The game has lasted for years, but now the game has become stale. On an impulse he decides to make a final and very public last stand. After surrendering himself to the police he enacts his plan to seize the prison for his final bloody act. There he discovers that he's not as unique as he once thought.




My favorite books combine a great story with a piercing look at society and the human condition, and The Cult of Me does this brilliantly.

It’s the story of a killer, but Michael Brookes uses no tired clichés, no supernatural possession, no born-the-spawn-of-the-devil, and no mental illness to explain his unnamed narrator’s bad behavior.  The character’s perfectly sane, just completely amoral.  He possesses a psychic power enabling him to read the minds, and later control the thoughts and actions, of those around him.  In the first half of the book, the author adroitly balances the current story (where the character’s in prison awaiting trial) with childhood experiences and the slow increase of his powers and disaffection with society.  With the exception of his mother’s violent death, there are no moments that catapult the narrator into hating society.  Rather, it’s the fact he has too much power and no normal societal constraints that create this “monster.”

In 1953, Jerome Bixby wrote a story called “It’s a Good Life” that was made into a Twilight Zone episode of the same name in 1961 (not to mention being voted one of the 20 best stories ever written by SFWA).  It’s about a boy who has mental powers, but lacking sufficient maturity and empathy for others, forces his family and town to fulfill his every juvenile wish.  He isn’t exactly evil; he’s just a spoiled narcissist.

The most fascinating thing about The Cult of Me is it explores the idea of what might happen if this type of character grew up.

Aristotle theorized that, by nature, man is blind to morality and inherently an amoral creature.  Freud believed that man was born impulsive, at the mercy of his unconscious drives -- his “id” -- selfish, irrational, and blind to the world.  It’s society that must teach men to stifle these impulses and conform to societal norms of right and wrong.

Since ancient times, the two most powerful influences on socialization have been religion and the rule of law.  And these are exactly what Brookes chooses to set against his “amoral man” -- the Church, symbolized by Friar Francis, and the law, embodied by Hammond, an ex-military man and prison guard.  Unable to force the narrator to feel guilt or to change, they try to enlist him in a greater cause: the destruction of an even more dangerous man who threatens to end the world.

Keeping with his arrogant and self-serving ways, the narrator pretends to go along with the plan while seeking a way to escape.  But a surprise encounter with the villain stirs up a thirst for vengeance, almost a competitive lust, that sets the narrator on the path to a pulse-pounding showdown.

The book is filled with unexpected twists and turns, guaranteed to keep you reading.  Despite being not-quite-likeable, the narrator is at times charming, funny, and always easy to understand.  He could probably be any of us on certain days when we'd like to sear an exceptionally rude stranger with our imaginary laser death-glance.  (You know you have those days! lol)  There are a few bumps before the ending.  At the three-quarters mark, the story bogs down with excessive details about the character and his monk cohorts plotting to overcome the antagonist and the character slowly learning psychic techniques.  But the shocking ending is perfect for the book and opens up the possibility of sequels.

The Cult of Me is clever and entertaining. Well worth the read.


Buy Links for The Cult of Me:






36 comments:

tfwalsh said...

Great review.... I'm reading this right now, and really enjoying it too:)

Michael Brookes said...

Thanks for the review, it's always nice to hear someone has appreciated your work, it makes the effort worthwhile :-)

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like an interesting read. I'm always intrigued by an unlikeable narrator.

Kim (YA Asylum) said...

I love nameless narrators for some reason. A well written amoral characters is always interesting too. This sounds like a really interesting read. Great review!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I remember that Twilight Zone episode. A character like that is difficult to like, but the story does sound interesting.

SA Larsenッ said...

Hmmm...sounds creepy and a bit disturbing, but I am intrigued. Thanks for sharing your views!

Catherine Stine said...

Scary cover art and scary premise---sane but amoral. But then again, we all love scary!

Allyson Lindt said...

I know that Twilight Zone episode - it's one of the creepiest, and one of my favorites.

The book sounds incredible too. I'll definitely check it out ^_^

mshatch said...

Interesting read! Have to agree with Sheri; it does sound creepy - but interesting, kind of like Dexter.

Stephen Hayes said...

Yes, that was one of the scarier Twilight Zone episodes. This author sounds interesting, someone I need to check out.

Ali Ginger-Read said...

Wow! This one sounds really interesting. I love books that play up the mind, having it be a sane mind makes all the more interesting. Great review, I'll be checking this one out!

Meradeth Houston said...

This sounds incredibly, and totally creepy! That Twilight Zone episode is still something that pops to mind as being one of the most crazy things I've ever watched. Great review!

Romance Book Haven said...

Sounds interesting and thrilling! Spine-chillingly thrilling!

Nas

klahanie said...

Hi Lexa,

So very kind of you to share this. And honestly, yes honestly, that blurb, now that I found out what a blurb is, is just the sort of blurb that fascinates me. Yes, even my last two brain cells were intrigued by this.

And because I'm so gosh darned nice, I shall now share your posting. Thanks for this, Lexa.

Gary :)

Cathrina Constantine said...

I'd like to sear a few stupid people driving in their cars, Other than that I'm fairly placid. Good Post, sounds like and intriguing book.

Al Diaz said...

Another book to the list...and so it keeps growing. Thanks for the review!

Heather Holden said...

This book sounds amazing! Just added it to my Amazon wishlist, thanks to your review. :)

Medeia Sharif said...

Thanks for the review and recommendation. This sounds interesting and psychological.

Ella Gray said...

This is the kind of thriller/psychological examination that I love! Wonderful review, I'll definitely check this one out. :)

Ben Ellis said...

Sounds like my kind of book! :-)

Lynda R Young said...

I love books with twists and this one sounds great in many ways.

DEZMOND said...

now that sounds like a superscary blurb!

Ms Misantropia said...

Although the premise sounds interesting, I can never get through a book (or a movie) where the protagonist is unsympathetic. I don't know how many times I started "Perfume".

krweinert.com said...

I have such a difficult time with narrator's I don't like, but admire twists and turns to keep me guessing. Great review, thanks for sharing.

DMS said...

This sounds like a book that would be interesting because the main character is so unlikeable. I find the idea of being able to read and control minds fascinating. Thanks for sharing.
~Jess

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great review, the narrator has me intrigued now.

J.L. Campbell said...

Sounds like quite an interesting read, Lexa.

Rajiv said...

Awesome review !

I like the detailed way you write the posts.

Thanks a lot for your beautiful comment on my blog about my friends's art work.
I posted today about Kodanad, a rescue elephants training centre in our place, hope it will be an interesting read to you:)


http://magnificentdewdrops.blogspot.in/2013/05/kodanad-land-of-elephants.html

Kelly Hashway said...

Hmm, never heard of this one. Nice review.

Rajiv said...

Hi Lexa, happy to note that you have enjoyed the post about elephant training centre on my blog. Thanks for the comment too :)

Jenni @ Alluring Reads said...

Oh wow, fabulous review. I had never heard of this one before but it sounds like it if full of great aspects to the story, I think I could like it!

Candilynn Fite said...

Sounds thrilling, yet terrifying. Thanks for sharing your review with us! The cover is creepy. O_O

Gina Gao said...

This sounds like a great book! Nice review.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Karen Tamara said...

Wow. This sounds like an awesome book. I'm gonna have to pick this one up. Thanks for the recommendation!

Yolanda Renee said...

Wish I could share in that chocolate, but hope this week is a much, much better one!

Great review, I think you just sold some books!

Kari Marie White said...

I loved the Twilight Zone when I was a kid. I would end up thinking about so many of those episodes for days afterwards. This sounds like a really interesting read. Thanks for the recommend!

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