A fascinating and engaging genre-bending novel with excellent characterisation, elevated by the narrator’s superb voice-acting.
14. Firstly, the number, when spoken in Chinese sounds like “will/must die”. Due to this superstition, there are numerous buildings in my part of the world which do not use this number. You will instead get Level 13a or Unit 13a in place of 14, and sometimes even a jump from 13 to 15. I started the book with this notion at the back of my head. And all I knew about the story then was that the building was strange and mysterious. A potent and thrilling combination, and yet I was still pleasantly surprised with the direction the story took.
The narrative unfolded as the main protagonist, Nate Tucker, was looking for a new place to stay in Los Angeles under a tight budget. As chance would have it, he met someone who was just moving out of an apartment which has a rent that was almost too cheap to be true. I don’t know about others, but when something was too good to be true, I tended to get suspicious.
As Nate moved in, he gradually met and came to know some of his neighbours. Veek, the “in-house wireless provider” who has a computer setup that was more elaborate and extensive than her job seemed to require. Tim, also newly moved in, a self-proclaimed ex-publisher that was much too knowledgeable than he should be. Xela, the artist with blue hair who loved to sunbathe naked on the rooftop deck. Roger, a grip in the movie industry who has the hots for Xela. Debbie and Clive, a lovely couple, who lived in the most unique apartment unit in the whole block. Then there’s Oskar, the building manager, and a religious, self-righteous dude named Andrew, who according to Nate’s POV has perfect Lego hair.
14 is a blend of mystery and science fiction, with a touch of horror and even fantasy. It is also a story of friendships forged through a common purpose, shared experiences and even desperation. I found the characters to be well-written. They felt so real and relatable that I can imagine being friends with them. In my opinion, this was primarily achieved through the natural dialogue between these characters, and Ray Porter’s superb narration and voice-acting made it even better.
The story did take quite a while to unravel, so some of you might find it a bit slow in the beginning. However, the time it took to get to the big revelations made sense to me. It also served to develop the characters and their connections more realistically. Once I hit the halfway mark, I was trying to find more and more time to listen to the audiobook by taking long walks.
As this is the kind of book best experienced going in with as little information as possible, I am not going to elaborate any further. I will just say that it is a thoroughly engrossing novel that concluded satisfactorily, and I’m very glad that I’ve experienced it via the audiobook.