Posted on October 20, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
Available at Amazon.com
There are few words that could describe how I felt after I finished Jason S. Hornsby’s “Eleven Twenty Three, there are a few and I will most likely attempt to put them down here and then post them here on Flames Rising, but I doubt those worlds will do this book any justice.
A-hem. Shall we start? Do you want to grab something first, like a sandwich, or maybe something to drink? I’ll wait, because this is going to be a long one and I don’t want you getting up in the middle of it for something as mundane as a ham sandwich or another one of your favorite beverages. Ready?
Eleven Twenty Three completely blew me away. This, in and of its self, is a precious and unique feat, as I have been reading survival horror/fiction for quite sometime. And I mean a lot of survival fiction, and I mean for QUITE sometime. But I digress; Eleven Twenty Three is by far one of the most intelligent, funny, stark, exciting books released this year by Permuted Press, if not in the whole of “Genre Fiction” itself. There’s intrigue, drug use, post adolescent camaraderie, violent acts, conspiracies and more.
The Plot Synopsis
Former high school history teacher Layne Prescot and his girlfriend Tara are returning home from teaching English in China for Laynes’ father’s funeral. While they wait to board the next flight back to his sleepy and economically depressed hometown of Lilly’s End, Florida they meet a mysterious “professional courier” named Mr. Scott, and from there the adventure, terror and conspiracies are just beginning. Because on arrival back home they find that the mysterious man has left Layne his briefcase, and at exactly 11:23 the townspeople start going mad and committing unspeakable acts of violence towards both the people they love and themselves. While the two and their friends try to find a way out they quickly realize that the town has come under strict quarantine, been cut off from the outside world and that death isn’t picky.
Sometimes I think the world is eating my brain.
About six months or so I went on a nice little conspiracy binge. Nothing too fancy, just the normal sort of Alex Jones, Infowars/Prison Planet excursion, now I had heard of Alex a few years ago after he interrupted Chris Matthews’ Hardball ball show, shouting about how 9/11, Oklahoma City and other various tragedies in our nations history –since the Kennedy Assassination, were the result of a huge global conspiracy, conducted by “Globalists/ multinational corporations via the U.N.” to subvert the sovereignty of every single nation and pull the world into a technocratic fascist eugenics fueled dictatorship. So, yeah- you can see how anyone would think this is crazy. But none the less, I persisted in trying to understand what exactly Alex and others like him were talking about, which lead me to fall head over heals into the world of anti New World Order/ anti Global Government talk shows, blogs, internet videos and television programs.
I love this stuff. I may not adhere to all of it, but it is interesting to read and think about. And with everything that has happened in the last three years, in America, especially concerning our economy and political system- one can reasonably see why these programs and blogs, etc. are up in popularity across the board. It’s a scary thought and it makes for a fantastic premise for a writer, so when I read the synopsis of Eleven Twenty Three on Permuted’s blog, I signed up to review it within seconds. Skeptical to fault, I thought it was going to be a good read, but also thought, well, it could go the opposite way. Sometimes we can be given too much, sometimes when a writer has such an ambitious premise the characters can become lost in the actual intrigue, details and theories. However, Jason S. Hornsby has been able to weave a story which is based on believable and sympathetic characters as well as fascinating subject matter.
Layne Prescot, our main protagonist is a flawed and jaded human being. He’s been dropped from his cushy teaching position due to every young male teacher’s nightmare, an overly flirtatious female student. He cheated on the girl/woman he loves just prior to going overseas to teach with his best friend of eleven years sister, who he still fantasizes about throughout the beginning of the story. He hates his father for leaving his mother for a woman who’s only a few years older than he is and he has self loathing and doubts to last more than a lifetime. Yet you instantly feel for Layne. He’s the guy you knew in your group of high school friends that had the most potential, but also the most to loose. And when the explanations come, of how he loses so much and throws the rest away comes about in the story, you instantly know all the motivating factors behind the character and his story.
The cast of supporting characters are just as robust and among them are the Brother sister duo of Hajime and Mitsuko, the first being the aforementioned best friend, who in the end turns out to be more than meets the eye, and the latter being the cold hearted rationalist who Layne cheats on his girlfriend with. Both are well rounded and offer the reader more insights into the world of Lilly’s End.
I have held off on my take of the girlfriend character, Tara, because I really wanted to leave this person out of the review/overview of the story. I initially felt that she was a little more underdeveloped than some of the other characters, or at the least one of the characters that an author places in a story to add more of a particular subplot-the cheating aspect wouldn’t exist, obviously, without the girlfriend, but upon going back and doing my sweep through the book for the review I came to appreciate her more. Tara adds depth to Layne and truly allows him to grow and change.
What this book means.
This book is a huge leap forward for Permuted Press as a publisher and Jason S. Hornsby as an author. It is a huge success for them both, one that should help establish the company as more than just a place to get your zombie fix. And I for one am not going to be one of those people, or one of those fans that sits around and bemoans the transformation, calling them sellouts or blowing my top at how they are moving towards more than just zombie/survival horror- because if they can continue to keep the quality, the sheer awesomeness of stories they are offering up, as high as I believe Eleven Twenty Three to be, then I would say that – in an industry which seems to have a very rocky and uncertain future, Permuted Press will be able to survive far into the next few decades as one of the most viable and profitable small press publishers in the world.
Review by Eric Pollarine