Book Review: The Many by Nathan Field

Cover via Goodreads.

I’m always down for reading a new psychological thriller, perhaps because more often than not, they remind me just how twisted a person’s mind can be. It’s what took my breath away in Gone Girl, after all. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with Nathan Field’s The Many. While it was short, it was a painful read that left me with far more questions than it answered – some of which deal with the writer’s knowledge in particular of certain things.

The story begins with an online date that goes bad, but the details are extremely vague. Something happens to the young woman, Stacey, that messes her up mentally. She goes mad and, as a result, ends up killing herself. Her brother, Karl, is left behind to avenge her death and from there, things only get more weird. I won’t go too much into specifics, because I tend to try and avoid spoilers.

The Many is more of a sexploitation book than it is a psychological thriller. While it is true that psychology plays a role in the book, most of the focus is on sex. From personal experience, I can say that the scenes dealing with the psychologist felt extremely unrealistic. In fact, a lot of the book felt that way. In The Butterfly Garden, we met the Gardener and his twisted obsession with young ladies and butterflies, but it was written in a manner that literally gave me the creeps. The Many, on the other hand, approaches it in an extremely crude manner that feels almost juvenile.

My largest and perhaps most ironic complaint is the manner in which Field writes women. I went into this book knowing that it had a strong adult theme. As an avid fan of the worst types of horror, the idea of “[exploring] contemporary themes of corruption, sexuality, and gender” doesn’t phase me. This book does not explore those themes, and if it does, the only one of those that it even really touches on for more than a few fleeting seconds is sexuality. There’s a strong hint of corruption, especially toward the end, but it is of the “supreme beings overlording humans” variety – something that could have been more fleshed out, really. The “exploration” in this book appears to be mostly in how many ways women can be objectified for their bodies. The reason I find this ironic? Right before I really got into the book, I was telling a close friend of mine that I haven’t really read books where men wrote women in such a manner after she’d linked me to a blog post about “if women wrote men the way men wrote women.

In addition to horribly written women, there were far too many inconsistencies in the story. They were mostly minor ones, but they were still there. For instance: Karl purchases a gun through his drug-dealing roommate because you have to be twenty-one to buy one in Oregon. That’s fine and dandy, but if he’s twenty, then why is he having no problem buying any alcohol? Better yet, even Dawn, who is younger, is offered alcohol in a restaurant. Do they simply not card? At another point, Karl remarks on how a Civic is not built for speed. While it is true that the year of the one he’s behind the wheel of, a ’98, probably doesn’t have enough get up and go left in it, a Civic is, and always will be, a ricer.

Other inconsistencies come in the level of importance of various minor characters. Some were super important for vital reasons at one point in the story, only to be completely forgotten shortly after.

I’m not saying the story needs to be toned down, though it is a bit too heavily trying to force the whole sex thing; what I am saying is that the potential that the story could have had is not met. Field has, with this “superior being” sort of idea, the potential to create a truly driving story. I think, with a little bit of tweaking to allow for realistic appearances and approaches (the female characters are all drop dead gorgeous), and a bit more focus on the psychology aspects of the book, it would have been a great read.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy for the purpose of an unbiased review.

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