An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.
Nate came to California to find himself; at least that is what he keeps telling himself and other people as he approaches thirty only to be in yet another dead-end job since college, and now forced to move after his roommates have decided to move on into adulthood by living separately in Peter Clines' 14.
After hearing in passing from a colleague about a historic building near work that has only a $560 rent, Nate gets a hold of the realtor and falls in love with the view of his new studio, overlooking the strange green cockroaches, and neighbors that seem less than neighborly.
After being settled in his place, Nate begins to find strange doors that seem to have been sealed up, doors with no door knobs, and padlocked off areas in the basement and hallways. After becoming friendly enough with a few of the neighbors, none of which have been in the building very long enough for an old woman on the first floor- no one has really taken into consideration the strange humming in the walls, the rooms that never seem to stay warm no matter how high the thermostat is cranked, and a weird machine room that everyone says has to do with the elevator that never worked.
When a neighbor, Veek, points out one day to Nate that there are no fuse boxes, power meters, or electric lines that flow into the building and that it is operating off the grid, Nate slowly begins to convert his neighbors into a Scooby-Doo gang of sleuths determined to find out the mysteries of the building without alerting the landlord who has scolded tenants in the past for any destruction of the walled-off apartments.
Through measurements, they determine first that the floorplan doesn't line up and there seems to be space between the wall . . . but for what?
Finding warnings and mathematics equations in the walls after removing the plaster or applying black lights, most of the neighbors are on board with the finding out exactly what is so special about their strange building.
First off, the floorplans and any information on what makes the building a protected historical site complete with three markers and a cornerstone marked from the 1800s, no one can explain the lapse in information and why it is sealed by the government.
The residents realize that no one had come across this building of their own finding and all had been recommended by someone else to move into the building. Since living in the apartments, no one has dreams that they can recall anymore. While the landlord becomes increasingly suspicious as his tenants continue to pry open locked doors and ask questions about the holding company, the door for apartment 14 is finally opened showcasing one of the biggest mysteries of all.
Apartment 14 is nothing like the rest of the weird building; in fact, it is not contained in our dimension. Sucking the residents into the beyond once the door is opened, rattling windows and breaking glass, they clutch anything they can to keep from being swept into the beyond.
Piecing together the clues about the thermal generator in the building and now finding the sealed-off apartments to be part of portals to other dimensions, some begin to pull away from involvement realizing that their living situation is not a building but a machine with control panels in the walls and instructions for what comes next.
But some among them are not who they seem and are planted to monitor the involvement of Nate and his investigators.
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The Cult And Cthulhu
Not everyone in the building is who they pretend to be, Nate soon realizes as people start to investigate the meaning of the building and the secret it protects.
Who was the Family that the warnings were about?
From investigation, Veek learns that one of the building's creators was Tesla himself, with the strange machine in the basement, and another was the grandfather of famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, who had passed down his stories of otherworldly monsters and cults in his writings as warnings to the general public which was too naive to see the stories as any more than amusement.
The building was created to seal off the other dimension, but now the building's self-defenses were failing as the portal to apartment 14 has been opened.
The Scooby-Doo gang is pushed into another dimension and forced to face the secret that the dead body in Nate's closet died to protect.
One of the first residents to meet Nate is Tim, an older man that enjoys resting on the sun deck where a female neighbor likes to sunbathe naked. Nate shares the daily beer with the man and finds out about his backstory. He has a private detective that is following him after his business faltered thanks to an ex-wife that got everything in the divorce.
Later Nate learns everything he knows about the man he most respects is a lie. Placed in the building as the inside man, it is revealed that the government has been keeping watch over the project and knows about portals and that almost everyone from the beginning was on the payroll in some way to keep the building functioning, from the realtor that was really an actress paid monthly on PayPal to show the place when a new application appeared, to the landlord that was paid from the Feds to make sure that the portals were never opened.
Now that everyone has exposed the secret, it is up to those left to put things right.
The New Manager
Every secret needs a keeper, and in the end, it is Nate that the government entrusts to be the new manager and keep the machine that is the building safe.
After his experience and losing neighbors and friends in the process, Nate knows that he should run but he has been tasked with taking over where the landlord before him has failed and Nate knows that they are the only thing that stands in the way of the evil being loose again.
More of a cosmic fantasy than horror, 14 plays on the best of horror and science fiction with its mutant bugs, and building that really is a machine to prevent the cult from causing the end of the world. With the involvement of famous names in literature and science to add flavor, 14 feels believable and keeps you reading until the last page.
My only complaint is that while the plot was really interesting, I never felt any of the characters were really in any danger as The Scooby-Doo gang was quick to unravel every clue and figure out what to do in the face of an open portal to another dimension.
Still, handing over the building to Nate, in the end, felt more like a duty than something being forced on him after knowing what the building really is and what it hides.
14 is an enjoyable read for those looking for a fast-paced novel that blends horror elements with cosmic fantasy.