Thursday, November 5, 2015

Asylum saga / Review

Last year I read Asylum at the beginning of the year, and it was good, in fact it was really good, the second book, Sactum came out almost at the end of the year, and finally a few months ago, Catacomb, the last installment of the trilogy –should I call it saga?- came out. So I decided to review the whole saga.
This review is going to be divided in three sections, the first one is going to be a little bit of the controversy behind Asylum, the second one is an introduction to the books and of course accompanied with the rating I gave them and the reasons why, and the last one is a spoilers section in which I talk openly of the books and some issues that I had with them. So if you are just curious about the books, I recommend you to read the first two parts, I’m going to leave the spoilers to the end so fear not my friend of been spoiled by me.


The polemic situation started with the release of book one, Asylum, which description on Goodreads was a little bit misleading, and here let me quote it to you:

“Asylum is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity, perfect for fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

Certainly it was the use of another best seller’s popularity to promote a new release that has nothing to do with the previous one irritated some fans.
While Miss Peregrine –even with its creepy pictures- is a very enjoyable story, in which acceptance of the differences of the children, their peculiarities, and the realization that no matter what you can be friends and together save the peculiars while facing impossible adventures, Asylum was darker.
People assumed that the use of photographs in both books made them similar, but the context was totally different. Actually this is the most important part.
The plot of Miss Peregrine was inspired by the dozens of vintage snapshots featured in its pages, the story was created with these photographs.
In the Asylum’s case, they were added after the story was ended, here I quote part of an interview of Madeleine Roux:

“Finding the photos was a collaborative process, one I shared with my editor…I think in the end the photos we chose are haunting, they stay with you and that’s the point”

While this may not look as something so relevant, believe me, it is, especially if you read the books without knowing the story behind the photos. In Miss Peregrine you feel that the photos have a reason to be there, they contribute to the story, while in Asylum there are moments when you feel like the photos are imposed, and I read it before knowing about they were added later.
But enough about this subject, time to go to the books.


Our story starts with Asylum, book one of the saga.
Dan Crawford is a sixteen year old boy who had been an outcast all his life, going from one foster house to another, until he ends up with a sweet couple who gave him a home.
When the opportunity to start a summer program on the New Hampshire College arrives, Dan is excited for a new beginning. The opportunity to make friends, the excitement of spend a summer in college,  where everything is new and nobody knows about his past.
Abby and Jordan would become his inseparable friends, and together they’ll discover that their arrive to that particular place, a place that used to be an asylum for the criminally insane, is not much as a coincidence.
While the trio starts to investigate the secrets behind the place, terrible events would take place, events that could cost them their life.

Sanctum, is the second book, and here the trio is still traumatized after the events of the summer.
They would love to leave everything behind, but continue with their friendship, but as much as they want to forget, Dan is determined to find out more about his past.
When a piece of picture arrives to each of the friends, they would come together and while putting the pieces next to each other, they would discover that they form an old picture about a carnival.
The kids return to New Hampshire under the guise of a weekend of prospective students, where soon they would discover that the strange things would escalate in the most disturbing way.

Catacomb is the last installment, and follows the trio during the road trip they decided to make after senior year is over, while they help Jordan to move to New Orleans with his uncle Steve.
But the fun is about to begin when they notice that they had been followed. Dan starts to receive messages from a person who shouldn’t be writing to him, a person who died last Halloween.
Dan has to accept that everything that has happened to him in the past year is connected in some way with his past, his biological parents, and now he must face the new treat or die trying.

There are also two short stories, The Scarlets which takes place between Asylum and Sanctum, and The Bone Artists, which takes place between Sanctum and Catacomb, but the events are obviously before the story on Sanctum.

While Asylum was interesting enough to keep you awake all night, it was the kind of book you couldn’t put down, still it had its faults.
The major problem for me were the photos, as I mentioned before, there were moments in which they felt imposed, they had nothing to do with the story, or they don’t do anything for the story, while others really freaked me out.
But other important fault of the book was the characters, for some reason I couldn’t connect with them, they were plain, and I kept finding myself forgetting their aspect.

Sanctum became unbelievable boring, I felt like the story lost the vibe of book one, and the use of the same context felt like instead of helping the book, was a major mistake.
Then we have a secret society element, which turned the story from bad to worst. The book became predictable and it as the plot didn’t connect the elements well.

Catacomb could turn out to be a more interesting story, richer for the fact that the trio were on a road trip in one of the most historic and fascinating states.
The book gives another twist and not for the good. The new elements leads to nothing, it’s like having three different unfinished stories in three books.
The photos didn’t help either, they became not distracting but annoying.

One example?

"They piled into the front cab of the truck...Jake Lee drove them back up the road, humming softly as they went, When that started to get weird, he turned on the radio..."

and of course the picture!

I’m still wondering what this has to do with the story, why is it relevant? A Mystery!
The story once more was predictable, the apparent connection was as ridiculous as you can imagine, even more.

To be fair, while I didn’t love them, I enjoyed a little bit more the short stories, The Scarlets and The Bone Artists for the simple fact that there were no photos on them.


I don’t have a problem telling what I liked or disliked about a book, and while I try to be polite, there are moments that the situations make me wondering WTF, so please don’t feel offended if I say something about here, but like I said, I need to vent about this saga, for real!
I think I would set Asylum apart, because like I said, it was the only one that I really liked, but I must mention some facts that I think are relevant.
I mentioned before that I couldn’t feel connected with the characters, and especially with Dan, I mean, I get that he’s a lonely boy who had suffered for abandonment, spend most of his life in foster homes, so yes, it’s understandable that it’s hard for him to trust people. It’s pretty clear that he keeps his distance, and maybe that’s why he wasn’t richer, or a more warming character, because in not a single moment I felt sorry for him, not at all.
We also have the fact that he has a gift, that conveniently only works in the most ridiculous way.
My problem started with Sanctum, and here I must include The Scarlets.
During The Scarlets we follow a kid named Cal who is the son of the dean of New Hampshire College, a problematic boy who drinks a lot, uses drugs and is the shame of his father for not be the perfect ambitious son he would love to have.
Cal discovered soon that when his father wants something, it doesn’t matter the way, but he get it. Events go out of control and Cal’s father is killed by accident, and Cal’s personality went for bad to worst.
In Sanctum the trio returns to New Hampshire College, and it was like WTF their parents are thinking? I mean why they left the kids to return to the place their almost die?
But if that situation could look impossible, the fact that the trio is placed with their equal hostess was absolutely ridiculous. Wehave Micah who is Dan’s host and also is a troubled kid, with a lonely past, just like Dan
We have  Cal who is Jordan’s host, and who is also gay, and the artistic host for Abby, perfect inspiration for her.
So if the similar characters are not enough, we find that they are part of a secret society, following the orders of the super villain Professor Reyes, the responsible of the investigation taking place in Brookline, the old asylum.
The secret society gave a twist of the story so bad that became absolutely ridiculous, and not for the society per se, but for the fact that Professor Reyes is controlling the kids by hypnotized them! For Christ sake!.
The Bone Artist is the story of Micah in some way before college and his best friend Oliver, who would be part of Catacomb, which was terribly annoying.
First let me start with the kids going on a road trip, and Abby new interest in photography and the fact that they have to stop in every single possible place for her to take pictures, of course we saw her fantastic marvelous work during the book, almost five pictures at once after Jordan said how good they are.
But if that annoyed, her interest in a very known killer who she is investigating –Julian Orsini- became the story so freaking delusional.
Dan on the other hand is trying to know more about his family, and thanks to the file he casually took at the end of book two, he knows more about his biological parents, well, at least that they were called Marcus and Evelyn.
There was a postcard in the file, and what would took days of searching to others, super Abby found the old school in a few minutes apparently, the same school that was in the postcard, and as a matter of fact, is super close to where they were.
And there’ when conveniently Dan saw the spirit of his father, but only of this father and discover that his parents were journalists with the mission to brought down a pharmaceutics company called Trax Corp, which was selling untested drugs to places such as Brookline asylum, and yes, that’s the only connection we’re going to find with the place.
They also found a bunch of old letters, which obviously survived the floatation.
The situations that followed went from bad to worst when they find the person who wrote the letters and after five minutes of talking to Dan, she has to go away and is killed outside the cafeteria. And nobody interrogates Dan.
The person that is following the trio apparently only takes pictures of Dan.
Dan only seeing his father spirit but not her mother, and then Dan being arrested for murder.
I mean this book escalated in ridiculousness to the point that Dan is kidnaped before been arrested and they cut him a finger, I mean, a finger, and then a day after he only took a pair of aspirins and he’s able to make jokes when the bone artist is about to kill him, because apparently aspirin takes away pains so strong as had a fingerless hand.
The end was predictable for not saying bad!

Well, that’s my review of the Asylum saga, like I said it was a quite disappointed saga, from which I only would recommend Asylum, and forget about the rest of the books.

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