Friday, December 19, 2008

Strange Matter #3: Driven to Death

The third book in the Strange Matter series and the second one written by Marty M. Engle, Driven to Death is a terror-filled tale about two brothers, Darren and David Donaldson, who get mixed up with some malicious supernatural forces.

The story begins with Darren and David going to the video store with their dad. It's in a shopping center that happens to house a McDonald's, a place where all the local high school kids hang out (Mr. Engle's first Strange Matter book, No Substitutions, also had a scene that took place at a McDonald's...Maybe he was hungry when he was writing these books?). David, the older brother, is quite embarrassed as they drive by, hoping that no one sees him with his "lame" father. Later on that night he sneaks out of the house and drives the family Celica back to the fast food joint, sans parental baggage. Around 3AM, younger brother Darren starts getting nervous because David isn't back yet. Suddenly he sees his brother pushing the car down the street, struggling to out-run a ghostly car that's tailing him.

The mist-covered ghost car finds its way into the Donaldson household and the boys end up coming face-to-face with the three ghost/undead teenagers inside. Apparently, David slammed into their car during his midnight joyride and now they want the Celica as collateral. It gets switched out with the ghost car and the brothers are kidnapped and taken to a ghost pirate ship (yes, you heard that right) to talk to the undead teenagers' father, to offer an explanation for the car accident.

As strange as the concept is, I actually had a fun time with this book. Mr. Engle kicks off the story with a description of Darren's model pirate ship in the Donaldson garage, which kind of foreshadows the whole pirate subplot. Tidbits of pirate trivia are sprinkled throughout the text, like what it means to shanghai someone, and it made for some cool reading. There was a lot of action, probably more than the first two Strange Matter books combined, and that's always a good thing. I did think that there were two stories here, and they fit together a bit awkwardly to say the least. The adventure starts off with the whole ghost car/supernatural joyride thing, and then abruptly shifts to a pirate ship. It seems that Mr. Engle wanted to go too many different directions with the book, and it could have easily been expanded into two separate manuscripts. Or maybe he didn't have enough of a plot with just the ghost car stuff and decided to fatten it up with the pirate shananegans.

And in what seems to be an irksome trend with the Strange Matter books, this story has a jarring number of typos. I'm beginning to think that Engle and Barnes didn't send their manuscripts to editors before having them mass-produced. What gives, you guys? It just comes off as tacky and messy.

This book was much better than the preceding Strange Matter book, The Midnight Game. Even with its convoluted plot, it still manages to entertain.

I give Driven to Death a 3.5 out of 5.

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