Run, Allie. Run
Take one young girl, one psychic, one biker gang, and one monster. Mix furiously. Add a sprinkle of metaphysics, a hefty dose of action, and allow to rise. Bake at a million degrees and douse with a delightful nitrous glaze and you’ll have Bryan Nowak‘s No Name.
One of my tests of whether or not I enjoy a book is just how easily I can fall into the story and imagine myself as part of it. I (usually) don’t go so far as to start yelling at the book and warning the characters about goings on, but I look for whether or not I can easily become absorbed. No Name held my attention and I only yelled at the characters to move faster a couple times.
As I understand it, this is Bryan’s first novel. I won’t lie and say it’s perfect but the action is well plotted, the characters are well developed, and the plot flows nicely. It’s also a wondrous thing to see the world through the eyes of the monster and that’s where No Name really separates itself from the traditional pack of monster stories. In your average monster story you see a group fighting a monster that’s a complete black box. Why is the Wolfman trying to eat everyone? We get why the Terminator or the Predator are out to kill, but we still never really hear their side of the story. A sizable chunk of No Name is from No Name’s point of view and we get to see him progress from a hunting, killing, raping machine that doesn’t really understand why it’s doing what it’s doing into a loathsome beast that understands its roots and embraces what it is. If anything, this makes the creature even more frightening because now it’s not a black box; it’s a living, breathing thing with thoughts, feelings, and despicable desires.
It’s easy to take characters and make them stereotypes, but that doesn’t happen here. Our primary actors are:
- A teenage girl
- An aging biker
- A psychic who wonders about his gifts
- The aforementioned monster
Just like the monster, the rest of the characters are fleshed out. It would be all too easy to make the teenage girl a bubble-head who can’t take care of herself, but Allie is smart and tough. She’s not all powerful and sometimes barely escape by the skin of her teeth. Red, the aging biker, is still a biker, but we get to see him as a human being rather than a leather-clad growler. Even Dale sometimes doubts himself and has been known to use his gifts for less than savory reasons.
I would have liked to see Dale use his skills a bit more or see a bit more about why the creature effectively nullifies some of his psychic skills, but otherwise No Name is a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing what Bryan Nowak comes up with next.