Heaven’s Peak by Miguel Estrada comes with a warning, “This book contains scenes of violence and disturbing themes. Please enjoy at your own discretion.” (Kindle location 8). I was surprised to see the warning because it is categorized as Teen and Young Adult Thrillers, Suspense, and Horror (two categories) on an Amazon book page. Would my teenage son come to me with the novel, point out the warning, and ask my permission to read it? Only in my imagination. And yes, I would permit with a few caveats that come with my experiences of reading novels with similar warnings.
As it turned out, the warning was unnecessary. Scenes of violence as monsters dismember human victims are no more disturbing than similar scenes which can be found in many graphic novels. There is no sexual language or situation that is inappropriate. I have no idea what the author meant by “disturbing themes.” I feel this is a case of being overly fearful of the Political Correctness (PC) Police. The novel was published in 2018. We should have gotten over this abundance of caution by now. There is more horror on news channels than is in this novel.
As I read through this story, an old movie came to mind. Creatures from another world selectively target people from an isolated town and begin subjecting them to change. Either the outside creatures would succeed and begin migrating from city to city in their quest to control the world, or they would be stopped by a few brave souls in the isolated village. Pods were involved in nurturing the targeted humans during the change. That is the story of this novel.
Heaven’s Peak is an isolated community. After only twenty-seven children had disappeared over five years, the FBI had been called and agent Norman James had responded with technical assistance. The local police did not appreciate interference from another agency, and the local police assured James the situation was under control. Twenty-seven children.
Sofia’s seven-year-old brother Rudy had disappeared five years before. In the present time, Kevin was taking care of his sister Jenny because Mom had died earlier, and Dad could not reliably be counted on to emerge from an alcoholic stupor. Jenny would also disappear. Grief-stricken Sofia and equally grief-stricken Kevin would bond over the similarities of their loss. The two would also embark on a quest to find either the missing siblings alive or their corpses and an answer to what had happened. Would they even find true love on the way? Readers might suspect that to be the case. Read the novel to find out.
There is a mysterious forest, an abandoned mansion, and a closed, abandoned mine. Monsters could be anywhere. Heaven’s Peak police resist all attempts at independent investigation, to include that of FBI James, out of fear their reputations will be damaged. For their part, monsters make occasional forays into the public vomiting a black goo onto mostly adult victims. Recipients of the noxious liquid become raging homicidal maniacs, killing everyone around them until they are themselves destroyed. Young people (re Rudy and Jenny) are saved for nurturing and development in the pods.
I found this 293-page story a slow, predictable read. I started to pay more attention to how it was written than the content. I was never drawn into the story. I was happy to read it on Kindle Unlimited because it was free. After writing these comments, I looked at what other reviewers submitted. There were 24 reviews (now 25?) with 54% five-star ratings and 21% four-star ratings. The next largest score was one-star at 13%. I don’t know what novel the first two groups read. I agreed with everything the one-star reviewers wrote, but there were enough good elements in the book for me to rate Heaven’s Peak at three Amazon stars.