Bingo 12: Free
I’m going to be up front about this: if this hadn’t been a free download from the Tor.com book club, I’d have been annoyed to have spent any money on it. The story is predictable, and the plot is both mostly lacking and also incomplete. I am reminded in a way of the Goosebumps series; I never really got into that as a kid in part because of how the endings were often not entirely endings. Same problem here.
The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen is labeled as book 1 of the Bright Sessions series, which apparently derives from a podcast (interview with the author at the back of the book), which does sort of explain some things but doesn’t excuse them. Ditto for the apparent Welcome to Night Vale connection (interview again). The premise is promising which is part of why it’s so annoying that this story turned out as it did. If a person lives in a world where there are special people who exist in mostly secret (yes, I’m pretty sure the X-Men parallel is intentional), and one of these people is Caleb. His problem/power is that he can feel the emotions coming off of other people and he isn’t trained in controlling this or in how to really deal with it. The part that makes things rather intriguing is that Caleb is a) in high school, and b) not the strange kid who hides at the back of the classroom with their hood pulled up. Caleb is a member of the football team; I think at one point he says that he plays running-back. After he intervenes in a bullying incident being perpetrated by one of his teammates and loses control of his/someone else’s (?) anger, he ends up in therapy. Therapy session are part of story, as are his interactions with the victim of another bullying incident, Adam. Caleb and Adam connect; Adam is gay; is Caleb? It’s unclear what Caleb’s actual gender identity is, but it’s certainly one that is ok with dating another guy. Cue typical teen high school romance stuff including the keeping of and possible revealing of big personal secrets. Most of this is the predictable but not terribly problematic part.
That part that’s beyond aggravating is the last 50 or so pages, where the story decides maybe it’s not going to be a teen romance with some possible special powers; it wants to be a suspense/mystery with the set up for secret government bad people after Caleb action. There might be other patients going to Caleb’s therapist who are like him; he suddenly meet a few, but what they have to do with the story is not clear. Then there’s the potential clues about what it is that Adam’s research scientist parents are up to. Could this be linked in any way to the mysterious threat building in the final pages? Who knows and apparently, the author does not care. Because there is absolutely no resolution to this stuff. Why set up the outsides threats and questions about the therapist and her other patients if you’re not going to do anything with it? I could understand if this was a cliff hanger to be continued. Except that it’s not; volume 2 of the series looks like it’s just a retelling of the same basic story with other characters. Same for volume 3. Even the weirdness of Welcome to NightVale (the novelizations too) has some actual resolution in terms of the mysteries of the outside world. Will I be continuing the series? Nope; nto even if later volumes become freebies too.