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Book Review: "The Eighth Square" by Herbert Lieberman

2/5 - a predictable psychological thriller with pages of boredom...

By Annie KapurPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
From: Amazon

Herbert Lieberman is synonymous with being a bit of a whiz-kid when it comes to psychological horror. His novel Crawlspace often appears on lists of the 'scariest books ever written' without having much blood and gore, but instead playing on the mind of the reader and keeping them terrified and engrossed from start to finish. The story he came up with in City of the Dead has been loved by psychological thriller fans everywhere and yet, in my books, falls short in some places. Be that as it may, I have persevered with his books, not letting one mediocre experience cloud my vision.

I moved almost straight on to reading The Eighth Square. With a title which is a reference to the book Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, I honestly did not know where things could go wrong. And yet, this is probably the worst of his novels that I have read to date. With an average storyline that is basically a cliché at this point and characters who seem so similar who will find them hollow and forgettable, The Eighth Square does not nearly measure up to his previous pursuits of horror/thriller fiction. Not even to City of the Dead.

The Eighth Square starts off with a walk to see a white oak tree and a group of people who already have tensions crane their necks around to see it. Mr Rogers is the guide, giving them a bit of every single piece of the atmosphere and while I do admit this is an interesting way of building description, I did find it got boring very quickly. Though, the tensions between the individuals he is guiding seemed to be already present and this kind of made the main story of the book not feel as impactful. Why? Well the whole story was supposed to be about their 'descent into madness' and the whole falling out thing. When you have two women bickering about how one is an 'outsider' and one is an 'insider' then you already have a motivation to fight there. There was not much of a descent and I felt a bit cheated out of one. There were clear signs that these people already were not too fond of each other. The 'breaking of friendships' thing that happens after Mr Rogers has a heart attack was just an add-on.

From: Amazon

Sooner or later there is a fight for leadership amongst the men of the group and honestly, I found it so hard to keep up with who was who because the characters (especially the male characters) were all so similar in the way they behaved, spoke and were described. I didn't feel sorry for anyone, I was not attached to any of the characters, it was a bit flat by the time the book ended and I was not feeling the usual chill from a psychological thriller that I should be feeling.

These are apparently friends that have been there for each other since childhood and yet, they didn't even feel warm to each other in chapter one and seem not to have their own personalities for the rest of the book. I was cynical things would change.

When it came to deciding on a tone for the review I thought that I did not want to put the author down because he can clearly write well. Crawlspace was a brilliant novel and City of the Dead was pretty alright in most respects. But this one is kind of flat, quite boring and tepid in comparison. It does not delve deep enough into the ideas it claims to explore and it does not leave you feeling moved by the end of it. There is no great reveal that a typical reader of psychological horrors and thrillers does not see coming. And you know what? That could also be a 'me' problem. I have read so much from the genre that I am no longer open to surprises of any kind.

In this imitation of a Cabin Fever situation set in the woods that resonates more with the story In the Tall Grass by Stephen King I can honestly say that there are some parts I found interesting, but it was outweighed by knowing exactly what was going to happen.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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