Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Cold One (1995)

By: Christopher Pike

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Supernatural

Los Angeles police are baffled by two strings of murders linked only by one fingerprint. Half of the victims are ripped apart and the other half seem to have suffocated. Journalist Peter Jacobs is pulled into the investigation when he gets a call from a mysterious man who may or may not be the killer. Julie Moore, a graduate student investigating near death experiences, becomes involved when Jerry Washington contacts her about the weird behavior of his girlfriend who nearly drowned a few days prior. Meanwhile, in India, Govinda Sharma is sent on a mission by his Hindu Master to follow Rak, a powerful, five-thousand-year-old demon, as he leaves his home in the mountains and heads toward civilization. All of these people are linked to each other as they get dangerously close to The Cold One – a being with no feelings whose very existence threatens to destroy humanity.

I have been a huge Christopher Pike fan since I was in the eighth grade and discovered his young adult thrillers. This is the first adult novel that I have read of his, and I found it just as enjoyable as his young adult books, if not more so. When writing for adults, Pike doesn’t hold anything back, while his young adult offerings are a bit more censored. Here, the violence is very graphic, as is the sex, and anyone could be on the chopping block. There were a few scenes that I found absolutely cringe-worthy and disturbing - and I’m not an easy one to disturb. 

I enjoyed getting to know the various characters and seeing how their individual stories slowly meld together. Julie Moore is probably my favorite character, as she is smart, ambitious and a survivor. I loved that Jerry Washington is a former gang member trying to turn his life around – despite the fact that it is quite cliché for the one black character to be in a gang. He has a good heart regardless of his background and truly loves his girlfriend, Susan. Peter seems like a cool guy at first, but I hate how he acts toward the women he dates – thinking he can do better than the lovely woman he already has. The Cold One is a fascinating character – I liked being inside its head and reading its thoughts as it tries to figure out what it is and its purpose on earth. Its scientific, experimental approach to murdering a human being is as interesting as it is creepy. 

I loved how the story all seems to flow together neatly, and the writing was so vivid that I could picture the events unfolding easily. Each character, setting and situation was easy to visualize. The story did begin to get a little predictable toward the end, but not so much that I was turned off by the outcome. I was rather satisfied that my guesses were on target but surprised by the additional details added on when my predictions were revealed as correct. 

The use of Hindu philosophy to describe the horrific events of the novel was also well-done. I found the Hindu ideas fascinating and I loved how they explained the chakras and the idea of Seedling – the ability to persuade others to do your bidding – a form of mind control believed to be used by cult leaders, politicians and corrupt religious figures. These beliefs explained the powers of The Cold One and linked them to ancient Hindu stories. 

Not everything about this book made me happy, though. The final confrontation between Julie and the Cold One is irritating to me. For one thing, Julie goes to The Cold One’s home even though she is fearful of it, which is an idiotic move for someone normally bright. Secondly, their final battle is over a man when there are much bigger things at stake – like The Cold One's intent to destroy humanity. Really? 

There was also a disgusting and upsetting scene involving a fetus that I felt was unnecessary to the story and could have been left out. I may be pro-choice, but this particular scene really bothered me because the fetus was past the first trimester and living outside of the body. Regardless of the paranormal, possibly demonic, nature of the fetus, it could feel pain. The revelations made between the characters could have been done without this detail being involved. I felt like Pike was pushing the envelope here and went too far. 

Lastly, the ending leaves it open for a sequel, which the final page of the novel even promises, but that sequel has never been written. I want to find out what befalls the characters as it looks like the cycle from this novel will repeat itself. I really hope Pike gets around to writing it, because, despite the flaws of this book, it is deserving of a sequel. I love these characters too much to never know what happens to them. 

Overall, despite an unnecessary disturbing scene and an annoying reason for our heroine to battle The Cold One, the story is very well-written and interesting if slightly predictable. I enjoyed the novel for the most part, and sincerely hope that Pike writes the once promised and long-awaited sequel. 


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