Book Review: Terminal by Brian Keene

When I picked up this book for the first time, based on a recommendation from Sheryl Hugill, I had no idea what to expect.  She stated that she knew the author personally, and that the book was well written and had a few surprises in it.  She called it a “quick read” and said that I would enjoy it if nothing else for the entertainment value of the characters.

The cover gets your mind thinking mystery or perhaps a crime scenario with just some hidden eyes starring in the distance.  But the title, Terminal, makes you think of medicine and quite frankly, death.  (Or airplanes and vacations if you are on your way to the beach.)  And not ten minutes into the book you realize that the meaning behind this Terminal was in fact death.

You are introduced to the main character, Tom O’Brien very early on.  You then meet his family (wife and son) and quickly realize that they are not the most well off family on the block.  They live in a trailer, can barely afford the government funded cheese that they survive on, and he has a dead end job down at the foundry.  (I learned that foundry could be compared to modern day factories.  The book, however, was set in modern times, but I had just never heard it referred to as a foundry.)

Tom gets diagnosed with cancer, and is given only a few short weeks to live.  He avoids telling his family and lets it slip one night while sharing some beers with his friends.  All his friends worked down at the foundry as well, and had all recently been laid off due to cutbacks and tenure issues.  Pissed off at life and realizing that his family would need every penny they could save, he decided to rob a bank.  He said it was the only way.  And what a better way to go out, huh?  So he tells his friends of the idea, they begin to plan, and one thing after another begins to fall into place as they prepare to get as many Benjamins as they can.

They decide to rob the bank on the other side of town as it was an easier getaway and no one would recognize them.  They get guns (which introduced a few new issues) and get ready for their big break.  Once inside the bank (and only 150 pages into this 300 page book) shit begins to hit the fan, for lack of a better way to express exactly what happened.  Before entering the bank it was decided that no shots would be fired and no one would get hurt.  Well, it did not take too long before that happened and there were dead bodies everywhere.

Long story short, you are introduced to some new characters and begin to realize the friends of Tommy were not really friends at all, but just cover ups for born again criminals.  By the time the books comes to an end, Tommy and his friends find themselves behind bars.  There are a few cases of symbolism and it all comes out in the last few lines of the book.  Not the ending you want, but the ending that you expect from the minute a bank robbery becomes a reality.

I felt that this book had a lot of great features.  Being the first book that I will review I am sure I have a lot to learn about how to write a book review.  But all in all I was pleased with this book for a number of reasons.  First was the speed in which I made my way through it.  I am always impressed with a book that I can read in only a matter of days, and this one was no exception.  If an author has the ability to grab my attention, and not let go, then I am bound to continue to flip the pages well into the night.

Another feature I liked about this book was his ability to capture the true essence of who these characters were.  The verbiage that he used throughout the book explained how these people lived.  You read profanity as how these people would talk.  Whether it was from the government cheese to the salutations of “yo” and “dog” you felt like white trash.  And that is good as these people were just that.  He get’s an A+ for being able to make me feel something for these characters.

I like books that paint a picture of where I am.  And in the scenes (the second half of the book) I was in that bank with these robbers.  They were amateurs, never having robbed a bank before, and they had no idea what they were doing.  His verbiage showed this.  It almost felt like I was watching a B movie and eating popcorn waiting on the next twist.

And it truly was twist after twist.  But it also brings up a point of “what would you do” toward the end.  He was twenty-five years old, had a terminal illness that was going to leave him dead within a month anyway, and a family that had no life insurance coming their way.  His only hope was to rob a bank for a few thousand dollars and a chance to give her something to live off of in his absence.  His funeral alone would cost more than they had to their names.  The only hope that he had left was in the dollar bills inside that bank vault.

But as you and I both know, whether in a movie or real life, no one ever gets away with a bank robbery.  Not in the days of Billie the Kid and not in the days of Tommy O’Brien.  There were some twists while inside the bank that made you fall in love, and sometimes hate, the newly introduced characters, but in the end everything worked out the way it should.  Of course, there were deaths of innocent people, but all in all, the true death came with divorce papers from Mr. Tommy’s wife.  Can blame her when he gets fifty years with only a month to live?  What was the point, right?  She had to what she had to do.

The book was not the best book that I have ever read, and I felt there was a little too much profanity (again probably trying to fuse the types of people he was writing about)  but all in all I give this book a three out of five stars.  It kept my attention, was not too long, and spanned only a few days in actual time.  (I hate books that are three hundred pages long and span months or years of time.)  I give props to this Pennsylvania based author.  And thanks to Miss Hugill for the recommendation.  Read on!