Sebastian “Seb” McAlister has run out of luck in Vegas. Cornered by a trigger-happy gang and shot through the stomach, he makes a desperate escape in his supercharged Hellcat. Fate guides Seb safely out of Sin City and into the desert, but as his wheels fade into the horizon, he fades into darkness.
He awakes among a tiny community in the middle of nowhere. A mountain range circles the hodgepodge of shacks like prison walls looming high. And the warden that resides in those mountains is big, ugly, and deadly—a creature straight out of a Lovecraftian nightmare.
If Seb hopes to escape that wayward way station, he’ll need enough cunning to outwit a force beyond comprehension… and a fast car. With a little luck and a ragtag group of would-be monster mashers racing alongside him, Seb just might have a shot of making it through the mountains alive.
Eight Cylinders is just one of several in the Jason Parent portfolio. Parent has authored books in many genres, including: science fiction, horror, thriller, and speculative fiction, among others. I reviewed another of the author’s books, Apocalypse Strain (a horror/thriller), in 2020 and found it to be quite an interesting read. Eight Cylinders (speculative fiction) is quite different from that book in many ways, though not any less interesting. I have chosen a mini-review format for this book for two reasons: it is a novella (right around 100 pages), and because it is so short almost any pieces of information I will get into spoiler territory; so the less I talk about the book directly, the better.
Sometimes I find it hard to get into novellas, and the reason for that (usually) is due to the fact that there just is not much depth to the story. I enjoy stories with layers, and that is hard to do in 200 pages or less. Most of the novellas I have really enjoyed fall into two categories: they follow a really compelling character and the reader gets to be immersed in the intimate details of the story (see: Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma and Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor), or it is 99% action and the reader is thrown right in and stays along for the ride (see: The Raven by Jonathan Janz). (Interestingly enough, The Murderbot Diaries, which I just finished, end up falling into both categories, which is quite rare). Long story long: Eight Cylinders falls into the latter category. This book floors it right out of the gate, and the story goes from 0 to 100 in 3 seconds flat and does not slow for a second.
If I had to describe this book in 3 words it would be: Cars. Guns. Monsters. All of which are super fun aspects in a story, in my opinion, especially if you intend on taking your readers on a short-term thrill ride. I am not really a car guy, but it is easy to see that Parent is – and that passion really comes through in this book, which, in turn, peaked my interest as a main part of the narrative.
The storyline is also very mysterious and strange. There is a lot of underlying suspense and tension, which I really love because it keeps the story honest. The fact that there is some mystique around the plot lends some balance to what is an otherwise over-the-top action novella. I love the way it ended, too, as it kept with the tone of the book quite well.
Overall, Eight Cylinders was a fun and interesting read. It is a quick-burst, gratuitous-action short film written down in novella form. If that description is of interest to you, a recommend picking this one up.