Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

Black Mad Wheel

From the author of the hit literary horror debut Bird Box (”Hitchcockian.” —USA Today) comes a chilling novel about a group of musicians conscripted by the US government to track down the source of a strange and debilitating soundThe Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. Tha...

Title:Black Mad Wheel
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:304 pages

Black Mad Wheel Reviews

  • Ellen Gail

    Ugh. Review to come when I can deal with my crushing disappointment.

    ---------------

    Finally reading this! I swore I wouldn't buy any more books. But I

    wanted this one, so it doesn't count. Right?

    -----------------------

    New Josh Malerman book? Sign me the fuck up.

  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at:

    3.5 Stars

    If you follow me and my (pretty much) daily ramblings, you might have noticed a couple of things. First, I’ve been gone for a bit. I thought I was taking a couple of days off to acquire a lethal dose of skin cancer via way of the local baseball fields, but ended up with nearly a week free of work thanks to a floating holiday that was given to us pee-ons in addition to

    Find all of my reviews at:

    3.5 Stars

    If you follow me and my (pretty much) daily ramblings, you might have noticed a couple of things. First, I’ve been gone for a bit. I thought I was taking a couple of days off to acquire a lethal dose of skin cancer via way of the local baseball fields, but ended up with nearly a week free of work thanks to a floating holiday that was given to us pee-ons in addition to the 4th of July.

    Second, you may have been witness to a nearly historic event of me becoming the type of person who annoys me most. Wait, who am I kidding? All people annoy me most. Anyway, I participated in behavior Ms. Manners would frown upon by touting my own shit as worthy of a re-read and giving it a bump. Which I promise to refrain from in the future, but after reading

    (that I continue to call “Mad Black Wheel”), I realized that

    was kind of the shizzle for rizzle for me and deserved a better rating. Not only because I thought it was really good, but because this one wasn’t as good and I couldn’t allow myself to give them the same amount of Starzzzzzzzzz.

    I requested

    (and was promptly denied, natch)

    was such a page turner for me. It’s pretty much a miracle when I recognize a new-to-me author’s name enough to know I want their newest release, but want it I did – and without even reading anything about it. But when I got it from the library I had to put it on the backburner once I discovered it was about a group of bandmates who get sent into the desert to track down a mysterious sound . . . .

    Yes. I have the mentality of a 12 year old boy.

    Once I finally got over my case of the giggles, I was able to give this one a go. Much like

    , not much can be said without ruining the whole thing. As stated above, it’s about a group of men who are hired by the military to go track down a noise in Africa. Then it does the wibbly wobbly with the timey wimey and we discover one of the men is now in Iowa and . . . . .

    It then flips between the desert and the hospital in order to piece a story that is part suspense, part mystery, part paranormal, part conspiracy theory, part romance and part anti-war narrative. While not as “edge of your seat” as

    ,

    was still quite the page turner and I am now an automatic sell when it comes to whatever Malerman releases next. And not that he’d ever even see what I have to say, let alone listen to it, but I would

    if he would continue this “exploration of the senses” as he has done by writing stories about sight (or lack thereof, as it were) and now sound . . . .

  • Char

    4.5/5 stars!

    is a story which defies categorization and instead focuses on delivering characters that you like and can believe in.

    The Danes are a band consisting of ex-army men, (even if they were only in the army band), who are asked by the military to investigate a noise in the African desert. I know it sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but I found it be compelling dark fiction.

    From Philip's point of view, (Philip being the band's keyboard player), the narrative switches betwee

    4.5/5 stars!

    is a story which defies categorization and instead focuses on delivering characters that you like and can believe in.

    The Danes are a band consisting of ex-army men, (even if they were only in the army band), who are asked by the military to investigate a noise in the African desert. I know it sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but I found it be compelling dark fiction.

    From Philip's point of view, (Philip being the band's keyboard player), the narrative switches between the trip to Africa and the present, in which he is hospitalized with every. single. bone. in his body broken. He wakes up not quite remembering everything that happened to him or what happened to the rest of the band. The very fact that he wakes up at all is a miracle. Or is it?

    Featuring some of the creepiest scenes I've read in quite some time, the author's talent for dark fiction really shines through. I doubt that I'll ever look at a goat in the same way again and I'll probably freak out if I ever see a red piano in real life. I loved the writing and the descriptive scenes and I even loved reading about the two prior military teams that were sent to investigate this mystery sound. (Not to mention the story of the couple native to that part of the desert-it was truly disturbing.) The only difficulty I had was that the premise wasn't really believable-at least not to me. However, I suspended my disbelief, and once I did, I just went along for the ride and what a ride it was!

    If you've ever

    a song in your heart, I believe you'll be able to identify with Philip and Ellen, his nurse, because it's the music they discover is a common bond between them. The ties between band members are also incredibly strong, (especially when they've been together as long as The Danes), and those connections are not easily broken. (In this respect,

    reminds me of Robert McCammon's THE FIVE, easily one of the best fictional books about a band that I've ever read.) The last scene nearly broke my heart and I can't think of a more perfect ending.

    Music, mystery, desert mines and mad doctors, (oh, didn't I mention that before?): with all that going on how can you resist reading this book? You know you want to! Go ahead: invest yourself in

    , at the very least you'll be intrigued. At the very best, you will end up making space on your bookshelf at home-the one that houses all your favorite books. Highly recommended!

    Available everywhere tomorrow, May 23, 2017 here:

    *Thank to Ecco and to Edeweiss for the e-ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This is it. *

  • Jennifer

    's storyline involves sensory horror, military/war-related themes, the suspense of a top secret mission, paranormal activity, rock n roll, historical fiction, and the slow burn mystery of how the member of a rock band had every single bone in his body crunched like a soda can. All this and more is incorporated into a story that reads less like intentional fiction and more like someone recounting their dream from the night before. It's that weird. But it's good. It's about how hist

    's storyline involves sensory horror, military/war-related themes, the suspense of a top secret mission, paranormal activity, rock n roll, historical fiction, and the slow burn mystery of how the member of a rock band had every single bone in his body crunched like a soda can. All this and more is incorporated into a story that reads less like intentional fiction and more like someone recounting their dream from the night before. It's that weird. But it's good. It's about how history repeats itself over and over like a

    . Ding ding ding!!!

    This review isn't intended to spoil anything. It's meant to encourage you to push through the weirdness of it all. It's worth it for the perspective and lesson about patterns in history that we will all likely know in full real-life detail sooner than later I'm afraid. Read it and have fun with the overall story, but keep the horrifically real theme close to your heart.

    is a rock star...literally!

  • Robin

    So very, very disappointed. Bottom lip stuck wayyyy out.

    Of course, my expectations were pretty high, considering how much I loved Malerman's first book,

    . He proved himself in his creeptastic debut that he's a master of suspense, and creator of original ideas. I've basically been waiting for instalment #2 ever since finishing #1 having been totally disturbed (in a good way) by Gary and the dangerous creatures stalking the earth in his post-apocalyptic masterpiece.

    I had a totally differe

    So very, very disappointed. Bottom lip stuck wayyyy out.

    Of course, my expectations were pretty high, considering how much I loved Malerman's first book,

    . He proved himself in his creeptastic debut that he's a master of suspense, and creator of original ideas. I've basically been waiting for instalment #2 ever since finishing #1 having been totally disturbed (in a good way) by Gary and the dangerous creatures stalking the earth in his post-apocalyptic masterpiece.

    I had a totally different reading experience this time around.

    The story takes place in the 50's, after WWII. Main character and leader of the Detroit band The Danes, Philip Tonka, is in a hospital with literally

    bone in his body broken. We learn through a series of flashbacks that he and the other three members of the band were recruited by the US military to find the source of a

    somewhere in the African Namib desert. The sound renders nuclear weapons ineffectual, so it's a concern (naturally). He sustained his mysterious injuries during this trip.

    What I liked:

    1) Malerman did a great job of showing Philip Tonka's state of mind, the PTSD resulting from his horrific mission.

    2) I got to experience some great suspense in a hospital scene with Ellen the nurse striking matches and hiding in the medicine closet.

    3) Who doesn't love a cray doctor?

    4) He created atmosphere in the desert scenes.

    5) The awesome dedication - seriously, I'm not trying to be snarky by saying the best part of the book is the dedication, but man!! Lucky Allison.

    My gripes:

    1) My first problem with the book was its premise. I had a hard time believing that the military would recruit a bunch of musicians to do this job, just because they 'knew music' and thus would be able to find a sound. I mean, really?

    2) While it has been a few years since I read him last, I really don't remember

    being filled with so many 2 word sentence fragments. This book is rife with them.

    3) The main relationship just wasn't convincing to me.

    4) So much vomiting!

    5) The book took a really sharp turn into science fiction, which isn't really my thing. The plot became completely surreal, thus, weak and unsatisfying.

    Maybe this is a case of wrong book for the wrong person. I'll still be interested in whatever Josh Malerman writes next.

  • karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!!

    josh malerman has become the go-to dude for sensory horror.

    if they ever let monkeys* become book reviewers (why so UNFAIR, world?), this is how it would go:

    :

    :

    his (awesome) debut novel,

    , featured an ambiguous “something” that swept the globe; a presence that drove anyone who looked at it mad: homicidal, suicidal, utterly destroyed. it was wonderfully intense, as characters were threatened by a force they could neither name nor even visualize, spe

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!!

    josh malerman has become the go-to dude for sensory horror.

    if they ever let monkeys* become book reviewers (why so UNFAIR, world?), this is how it would go:

    :

    :

    his (awesome) debut novel,

    , featured an ambiguous “something” that swept the globe; a presence that drove anyone who looked at it mad: homicidal, suicidal, utterly destroyed. it was wonderfully intense, as characters were threatened by a force they could neither name nor even visualize, spending their lives in a protective elective blindness; not-looking at what might or might not be right there on their periphery, lurking behind them, creeping up the stairs… all of which made for a delicious tension for the reader; the horror of the unseen and unknowable foe.

    this one is about a mysterious

    emanating from a desert in africa, one so intense that it neutralizes weapons and causes immediate visceral responses in the human body: vomiting, immobility, pain, and, when too close to the source of the sound, delivers an impact that’ll break every bone in the body. however, instead of characters avoiding a mysterious destructive force, here we have people who are sent specifically to locate the sound.

    philip tonka is a man who experienced all of the above trauma, and somehow lived through it. he has been in a coma for six months, and has just awakened in a secret military hospital in iowa, recovering from his injuries at a remarkable rate, and being grilled by officers and doctors about his experiences, memories of which are fragmented and confusing.

    i should mention, since the synopsis does not, that this is a historical novel, taking place in 1957. otherwise, you may have the same bewildering moment of dislocation i had when philip mentions something that happened when he returned from world war II, leaving me wondering how old this damn character was, and how an elderly man could have survived the breaking of every bone in his body. but no - he is only thirty-one, although it's still pretty remarkable to survive these massive sound-inflicted injuries.

    philip did indeed serve in WWII, but not in active combat - he was in the military band, where he made the friends with whom he would go on to form the successful detroit-based rock band the danes. and now, twelve years after their service, the four members of the danes are approached by military intelligence telling them to soldier up and head into the desert to investigate this sound, a mission that has already been attempted twice, unsuccessfully, with the reasoning that those with a musical background will be better-equipped to handle the specific challenges of acoustics and echoes that an auditory threat presents.

    they patriotically accept, the offer made more tempting by the promise of $100,000 each.

    from that point on, the narrative is a jumble of past and present, real and surreal, as two stories unfold: the band and their military escorts head into the desert and are unprepared for what they find, and the aftermath of philip’s broken mind and body trying to remember what went down from his hospital bed, while the sympathetic nurse ellen is the only friendly face in a barrage of interrogations and injections by sadistic doctors and military personnel.

    there are a lot of questions: the military wants to know what happened, how to get to the sound, if it can be weaponized, and philip wants to know what happened to himself and what became of the other danes. the reader, of course, wants to know all of this and more. and while many answers will be given - some of which answers just lead to further questions, some of the details remain unclear.

    i’m still unsure how i feel about this book. in

    , there was much left ambiguous at the end, and there the lingering mystery-shiver was wholly satisfying. with this one, some of the answers that are given take too much of the mystery away while others led to too many unanswered follow-up questions of “but, why?” & etc.

    the writing definitely kept me interested and turning those pages, especially once everything started chugging and i began to get the same kind of vibe i got from

    , but i never really got that AHA! moment that makes a twisty-structured book like this *work.*

    additional minor quibbles: despite this book being almost entirely from philip’s perspective, he isn’t particularly well-defined. he's the dude who does the stuff and who has the stuff happen to him more than a

    . also, the romance aspect is jammed in without a whole lot of narrative foreplay, so it doesn't feel like a natural progression of events.

    but all that aside - the journey itself is a creepy good time, even if the payoff is a bit muddled. it’s thoughtful overall, and it’s an unusual situation, which goes a long way towards my own personal readerly enjoyment, and i’m always willing to concede “it's me, not you” when it comes to any confusion i might have with a book.

    so - it's definitely worth a read, for everything that happens between the naively optimistic,

    to the chilling warning of

    shivers.

    *with apologies to rigorous taxonomists

    ***********************************************

    so, for those of you who were asking - right now it's a solid 3-3.5. i need to do another pass before i cement that rating. not as much creepy fun (for me) as

    , but definitely worth reading.

    full review and probably more star-waffling to come...

  • Greg at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

    Anyone who has read

    knows that Josh Malerman is capable of reaching inside, grabbing your soul and freaking the hell out of it. Once I saw that he had a new book releasing, I knew that I needed to read it.

    played back and forth between two timelines in the protagonist’s life. This is a formula that has worked for Malerman before, I like it; this flow really allows the author to build the mystery, leaving the reader to wonder WTF is going on. Additionally, this format allo

    Anyone who has read

    knows that Josh Malerman is capable of reaching inside, grabbing your soul and freaking the hell out of it. Once I saw that he had a new book releasing, I knew that I needed to read it.

    played back and forth between two timelines in the protagonist’s life. This is a formula that has worked for Malerman before, I like it; this flow really allows the author to build the mystery, leaving the reader to wonder WTF is going on. Additionally, this format allows for not just one but two climaxes. Yes, I am greedy.

    At several points in

    I had to remind myself that this is not

    . The story was well developed, the characters are dark, just the way I like them, and the mystery of what was going on, deeply intriguing. It was just that the “magic” was missing; the connection to the characters wasn’t what I’ve seen from Malerman before. I knew he could do more, and I wanted it.

    But then again, this is not

    .

    is its own entity. Standing on its own two feet,

    is a great book, filled with a darkness and mystery that is palpable. Each of the characters has their own cross to bear, just the types of characters I look for.

    will take you on a remarkable, mysterious journey. It will hold you until the very last page, but it was just missing that little something.

    *I received a copy of the book from the publisher (via Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review.

  • Danger

    A rocket-fast story told with staccato-like prose, this bad boy whizzes by you equal parts thrilling, philosophical, mysterious, and frightening. There wasn’t a dull moment or a wasted word on these pages. While the end gallops up rapidly and lands on the allegorical side, I was wholly invested in the protagonist’s journey. The voice here is unique, as is the plot itself. This book is a winner, to be sure.

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