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Monday, April 11, 2016

A Predator's Game, by Martin Hill Ortiz: Fun and Scares with Nikola Tesla!

A Predator's GameA Predator's Game by Martin Hill Ortiz

A Predator's Game, by Dr. Martin Hill, is a rematch between the intelligent, reclusive Dr. Tesla and the brilliant serial killer Dr. Holmes, as Tesla struggles to uncover Holmes' murderous plots in a complicated game of chess throughout urban New England. It's historical mystery fiction with a touch of scifi and a healthy glob of horror on top, and it's definitely worth a read.

The author's greatest strength lies in his painstaking attention to detail, both in description, and in research. The street names, places, characters, and events mentioned--nearly everything except the actual interactions between Tesla and Holmes--all existed, and readers who take the time to look up any of the aforementioned will find themselves shocked with the sheer volume of information Dr. Hill took the time to conjure up. Recently, he's even uncovered details from old newspapers that have aided historical societies in correcting their records, and because of this he's already relatively popular with hardcore Tesla fans.

This level of detail will not, however, detract from the experience for those who aren't as into the "historical" side of historical fiction. The intimate descriptions, especially those penned through the point of view of the intriguingly evil Dr. Holmes, also serve to add perspective and the uncanny wit which I've come to expect from Dr. Hill's work.

That detail extends to Dr. Holmes' murders, too--you didn't know to be afraid of an X-ray until you read the way the Not-so-good Doctor uses the medical invention on one of Tesla's technicians. That heaping helping of nasty puts this book solidly within the realm of the gruesome--not PG-13 for sure--and actually I think this broadens the audience beyond hist-fic readers to solid horror. It might be a little slower for your standard horror reader, but once you're solidly within the mind of the monster, you're in for a nasty set of scares, both gross and psychological. Nothing's overdone, so I don't think those mystery fans out there should run and hide, but it's definitely not a "cozy" mystery, and I'd definitely recommend this book to my horror fans.

Dr. Holmes does in fact, in many ways, outshine the book's protagonist, the unfortunately more boring Nikola Tesla. I guess I always imagined Tesla as more of a quirky weirdo, and I wanted to see an unusual, semi-autistic play in his character development--maybe a missed opportunity to celebrate diversity of those who are differently mentally-abled? As is, Tesla is a bit too normal for my taste: brilliant, reclusive, and Spartan, but almost too intentionally so. Hill's interpretation of Tesla is struggling with doses of violent thoughts accidentally implanted into his mind by Dr. Holmes (this is the science fiction part)--which should make him more human, and less ivory tower, but for some reason didn't resonate with me, perhaps because I wanted a dirtier, grittier writing style for Tesla to match Dr. Holmes' cold observant brilliance. At any rate in such a plot-driven book Tesla's mild personality doesn't matter nearly as much as the heat of the chase itself--which is expertly crafted--and readers will empathize with Tesla all the same.

All in all, A Predator's Game is definitely worth your time if you're a horror fan, a dark mystery fan, or a historical fiction fan who doesn't mind a little bit of light science speculation thrown in. Parents should definitely read this book first before recommending it to their children, but most older teenagers should be able to understand the book as well, and it would certainly make a fun adjunct read to an upper-level history or literature class, for while, again, this book's plot follows a completely fictional thread, the rest of the tapestry places you soundly in the real life and times of Tesla. A must-read for any Tesla fan, for sure.

Happy reading!

Disclosure: Two years ago Dr. Hill taught a pharmacology class I attended. There is now no professional/personal relationship offering personal gain or any superior/inferior dynamic that would adversely affect the objectivity of this review. On the contrary, having learned a bit about the author, I'm more able to appreciate the time investment of this work.

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