The Lost Levelby Brian Keene Published 19 Jan 2015
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|Publisher||Apex Book Company|
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When modern-day occultist Aaron Pace discovers the secrets of inter-dimensional travel via a mystical pathway called The Labyrinth, he wastes no time in exploring a multitude of strange new worlds and alternate realities. But then, Aaron finds himself trapped in the most bizarre dimension of all — a place where dinosaurs coexist with giant robots, where cowboys fight reptilian lizard people, and where even the grass can kill you. This is a world populated by the missing and the disappeared, a world where myth is reality and where the extinct is reborn. Now, side-by-side with his new companions Kasheena and Bloop, Aaron must learn to navigate its dangers and survive long enough to escape... THE LOST LEVEL.
Apex is proud to present the first book in Grand Master Award winner Brian Keene's long-awaited new series, a loving ode to lost world classics like Burroughs's PELLUCIDAR, Howard's ALMURIC, and Lansdale's THE DRIVE-IN, but with a thoroughly modern twist that only Brian Keene could conceive.
"The Lost Level" Reviews
When occultist Aaron Pace begins experimenting with travel between dimensions, he finds himself trapped in The Lost Level, a realm purported to be inescapable. Will Pace buck the odds and find his way back home?
I've never read Brian Keene before and this is far from his normal fare, a planetary romance of sorts rather than his usual horror fare. While it wasn't my favorite book of this type, it was quite enjoyable.
As I mentioned above, The Lost Level is Brian Keene's homage to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Land of the Lost, and similar works. While it obeys the conventions of the Sword and Planet/Planetary Romance genre, complete with buxom warrior women and many-legged creatures, Keene puts his own twists on it.
Rather than being a dynamo like John Carter, Aaron Pace is an occultist but still fairly capable. While traveling The Labyrinth, a dimension connecting many others via portals, Pace stumbles into the Lost Level, an inter-dimensional Sargasso where the flotsam of the multiverse collects. Soon after arriving, he meets Bloop, a creature resembling The Beast of the X-Men, and Kasheena, a nearly naked warrior woman. Together, the trio try to find Kasheena's settlement in the hopes of getting Pace back to earth.
Keene does a good job aping the style of the genre without sacrificing his own voice. His descriptions of the denizens of the Lost Level were vivid without being too flowery and he managed to convey a feeling of jeopardy throughout, unlike a lot of similar books.
The Lost Level setting itself was pretty cool. I love the idea of an inescapable garbage dimension populated by all matter of things, from cowboys to dinosaurs to the Nazi Bell. Since I was a Keene virgin prior to this book, some of the references were lost on me but I did notice references to the Rising and the Clickers sequels.
The Lost Level was a lot of fun but I wished it was about twice as long. 3.5 out of 5 stars. Keene's Labyrinth mythos has me intrigued and I'll be sampling more of his works in the future.
Booyah! The spirit of old-school lost world pulp fantasy is alive and well in The Lost Level. Even if he hadn't paid homage to his literary influences in the introduction, Brian Keene's fondness for that lost genre is evident upon every page. This is a story that truly has it all, from dinosaurs and Nazi spaceships, to nuclear-powered robots and alien greys, to razor sharp grass and carnivorous ponds.
Lest you fear The Lost Level refers to some kind of video game or virtual reality adventure, rest assured that Keene remains true to the early 20th century origins of the genre. It actually refers to a lost realm, just one more parallel world accessed through occult mystical portals - but the only one where the portals is a one-way trip. Actually, before we get to the world itself, I have to give Keene credit for the amount of detail he puts into the occult element. It really comes across as something Lovecraft or Howard might have written, relying on candles, pentagrams, and obscure chants.
As for our hero, Aaron Pace is the perfect sort of every man to anchor us in such a strange world. He doesn't have any special talents or skills, isn't ridiculously strong, and is neither overly handsome nor charming. He's an average guy, decent, loyal, and sincere. Understandably, he suffers a bit of a nervous breakdown upon realizing he's trapped, and he never loses his longing for home, but he makes the best of the situation. Kasheena, the beautiful tribeswoman, and Bloop, the anthropomorphic blue beast, are worthy companions, each of whom brings something unique to the story. They make for an effective trio, supporting one another against the dangers of the world as they attempt to take Kasheena home.
Along the way there are any number of dangers, both large and small. During his first few days in the new world Aaron is badly burned by the corrosive blood of a giant insect, nearly loses a leg to living, writing, razor-sharp grass, and watches as a pond comes alive to reach up and drag down its victim. Kasheena and Bloop teach him to beware the tiny little piranha-like hummingbirds, and together they watch as a giant robot battles a ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex. Amid all these dangers, both natural and unnatural, Keene also introduces us to a vicious race of reptilian humanoids who challenge the heroes at every turn.
What brings it all together is the way Keene links The Lost Level to our world, suggesting that it is responsible for everything from the Bermuda Triangle to disappearances. It allows for all manner of monsters and machines to inhabit the world, often in the most unexpected ways and places. It's a fun, imaginative story, well-paced, and full of surprises. While it's only the first in a series, it is a complete tale, but one that will leave you hungry for more.
Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins
The Lost Level is the first book in a series that is both equal parts intriguing and mysterious. Brian Keene draws a lot of inspiration from televisions shows like J.J. Abrams masterpiece "LOST" and classics like Land of the Lost. However at the same time The Lost Level marches to it's own tune, giving the readers a fresh read that has me hungry for more. Never before have I been so interested by a series like this, not even when watching Lost back when it was on television. I found myself thinking about these characters when I wasn't reading this book.
The Lost Level is essentially about a man Aaron Pace who is studying the dark arts and who is fascinated by occult mysticism. While experimenting with opening portals to other realities and worlds, Aaron becomes stranded in one called The Lost Level. Thus begins the young sorcerer's journey to find his way back home, while making both friends and enemies along the way. Some of the adversaries Aaron faces are very cool, some of them are from fun conspiracies like the infamous alien Greys. Needless to say fans of television shows like The X-Files will not be disappointed.
One of the most fun characters is Aaron's companion "Bloop" who is a furry were-tiger type of creature. If you enjoyed the hilarious antic's of "Groot" from Guardians of the Galaxy then you will enjoy Bloop's presence very much. Honestly there is very little reason not to check out "The Lost Level". It seriously has something for everyone. The plot excels at a very fast pace and all of the main protagonists are likable and complex.
Honestly The Lost Level is my new favorite Brian Keene series. I will recommend it to all of my friends that like good books.
I give the Lost Level a perfect score of five out of five stars! If you are looking for a fun book that has a promising beginning to what will ultimately be a kick ass series then give The Lost Level a chance. With that said this will most likely be my last book review for 2014. I am looking forward to reading more Brian Keene books in 2015! Special thanks to Goodreads members Mehmet, Lisa, and Kaisersoze for reading these books with me.
As a massive fan of Brian Keene, I go into any new book of his with certain expectations. It does not matter whether said new release is his typical horror fare, or whether it represents Keene stretching his wings and trying something different. In fact, I tend to enjoy it when authors take chance and try something else, even if my enjoyment of such releases tends to vary.
So it was with The Lost Level, Keene's pastiche to numerous authors and their significant works, including Edgar Rice Burroughs and Joe R Lansdale, as well as a TV series I have fond memories of from my very early youth, Land of the Lost.
The plot is simple: Occultist Aaron Pace pays the price for being nonchalant with his travels between dimensions and winds up in a dimension from where there is no escape, the titular Lost Level. It happens to be a place where the refuse from all kinds of inter-dimensional rifts wash up, so it isn't long before Aaron - who is recounting his tale in a notebook he has come across many years after the events he is describing - runs afoul of all manner of weird and wonderful beasts. When he recuses a native woman and a blackish-blue, bipedal, cat-like-monkey creature from a group of upright lizard men, the rest of the book concerns itself with Aaron and his new companions making their way back to the woman's tribe and all that the things they encounter along the way.
It's a simple, straight-up pulp read, which is enhanced by a strong familiarity with Keene's Labyrinth mythos, since everything from Clickers, to zombies caused by Hamelin's Revenge, to a supporting character from a short story he wrote called Lost Canyon of the Damned included in An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley make an appearance.
Other than this, what you see, is what you get. Keene's prose is always smooth and unassuming, easy on the eyes and the literary palate. And yet it still took me a over a week to read this 170 page novella. I puzzled over why I was prioritising everything else that I was reading, but I could come up with nothing more enlightening than The Lost Level never really grabbed me. It's a solid read, and I'll likely return for the sequels it sets up, but I won't be chafing at the bit for it in the way I am regarding several of Keene's other upcoming projects.
Recommended to those looking for a decent adventure yarn.
3 Possible Answers to the Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle for The Lost Level.
4.5 of 5 Stars (rounded up to 5) Review copy
One look at the cover art from Kirsi Salonen and you have a pretty good idea where Brian Keene's, The Lost Level, is going to take you. This homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sid and Marty Kroft, Joe R. Lansdale, H. G. Wells, and others takes you to places that can only be reached through the imagination.
The story is told by Aaron Pace, written by hand in a spiral-bound notebook found in a student's backpack inside of an abandoned school bus. The school bus and Aaron are on, or is it in, the lost level, a place from which there is no way home. He got there through the Labyrinth. "The Labyrinth is perhaps best described as a dimensional shortcut through space and time. It touches and connects everything. Most of humanity remains ignorant of it's presence, but it is explored and utilized by madmen, magi, occultists, and a few in the highest levels of world government."
Aaron's goal in writing this all down is so he can attempt to explain how he got to The Lost Level and what happened after. Especially the story of his friends Kasheena and Bloop. I can't go into great detail about what happens in the book without getting into big-time spoiler mode. Let's just say the story borrows from other Keene novels (with entertaining results), there's a bit of the TV series Lost thrown in, and a definite Twilight Zone vibe as well. There are monsters everywhere and with a sun that never sets, time itself is irrelevant.
My only complaint is that The Lost Level ended too soon. The good news is that Keene has merely scratched the surface in what could be his opus piece. I eagerly await Return to the Lost Level and the prequel to book one, Hole in the World.
Published by Apex Publications, the actual release date for The Lost Level isn't until January 19th, 2015. But, if you pre-order the paperback through the publisher's website, you get the (DRM free) e-book immediately.
Recommended? You betcha!
Brian Keene’s The Lost Level is the first book of a projected series. If you are familiar with the works of Keene then you know him mainly as a writer of visceral horror. His zombie filled Rising trilogy is probably the best known of his books. Yet he will occasionally venture out in to other territories. The Lost Level is one of those other territories. While having its moments of horror it is steeped in an earlier tradition, that of the fantasy/science pulp fiction of the past. Think Edgar Rice Burroughs or Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Even Sid & Marty Kroft’s TV show Land of the Lost is mentioned by the author as an influence. I will venture out on a limb and suggest that another influence is perhaps Phillip Jose Farmer’s sci-fi epics like The Riverworld Trilogy where an alternate reality is created bringing in various other cultures and people from many places and time yet suggesting that there may be a secret controller of the dimensions. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Aaron Pace is a young but resourceful man who has an interest in the occult. Through his mystical research he discovers something called the Labyrinth, “a dimensional shortcut through time and space. It touches and connects everything”. He explores the various worlds through the Labyrinth with enthusiasm and recklessness. That is until he accidentally enters the Lost Level, “a dimensional reality that existed apart from all the others”. Anything in all of time and space can end up there and there is no escape.
The veteran Keene fan will pick up a theme instantly. The Labryinth Mythos is an integral part of all of Keene’s fiction. Here we learn of the Lost Level but the author is also giving us more subtle hints regarding the mythos’ multiple realities in this series. But if you have never read anything else by Keene this will not ruin this exciting adventure tale for you. The author sets up what he needs to for his story and makes sure it is a thrilling ride.
Aaron Pace is the perfect hero for this tale which does owes the most to Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is daring and capable with just the right amount of naivety and wonder to make him believable, likeable and easy to identify with. The story is told through his perspective as he writes his adventure in an old school notebook he finds on an abandoned bus. Most of his rivals and allies may sound familiar to readers of this type of epic. He borrows from many times, legends, and science fiction warhorses. There is even at least one reference to another Keene novel and I expect there were more that I was not aware of. Stories like this bring out the inner teen in me that thrives on lost worlds, time travel stories, and adventure tales where I can pretend to be the young, muscular hero that manages to slay the monster and win the heart of a buxom, bronze, and half–naked tribe-woman. The nice thing about Keene’s tale though is that it may be derivative but it doesn’t feel like it. There is enough flair and originality to make even the most frequently used creatures in the book fresh and exciting. And the last thing Keene will ever be accused of is not being exciting.
So who is this book for? It is for anyone who enjoy adventure tales, sci-fi and fantasy. It is for those who remember the early “Weird Tales” type pulp fiction and wants to relive it. It is definitely for the Keene fan. And, despite some rather grown up scenes that tells us it is not YA, it is for the mature teenager who is ready to bridge the gap from young adult to mature audience. The Lost Level is a good start to a series that promises to send your mind to lost levels of its own.