Reed's Literary Horror Review of '3:33 AM' (2021)
The Devil's in the Details
I have to say, this book's characters are absolutely marvelously defined. This is probably some of the most detailed and engrossing characters and character development I've read in a long time. They're richly tangible and relatable with dialog that is both full and natural.
The same can be said about the setting as well as the author's ability to show that and the characters in it. I have to say, this is most impressive when you're being introduced to somewhat esoteric ideas like astral projection. There's nothing particularly new about the ideas, but they're marvelously detailed and every bit as enriched as the characters.
But perhaps what is best about this b0ok is also one of its biggest weaknesses. The details can often be so fine that the story gets a bit lost in the minutia. I talked about this in my review of Blood of the Sun. It's often important to provide just enough detail to engross the reader while leaving just enough up to the imagination so that the reader fills in the blank space themselves.
Some of the details could've been better summed up more simplistically. Some of the dialogue came off as needless banter. There were entire chapters that felt like going a bit too far or adding a bit too much. All of this serves to make the read more enriching but a lot of it honestly could have been skimmed. In fact, if it didn't serve some purpose to the narrative, I'd accuse the story of being padded. There's one scene where the male lead, Jack, finds a laptop filled with the information that will progress the story, but it was something like four chapters later until he actually investigates that. It wasn't until something like 150 pages in when the story actually starts to skim the details a bit. I feel like the story didn't really kick off until something like 50 pages in. The book itself likely could have been about 100 pages shorter and being more succinct would have improved it dramatically.
The pacing is just a bit too slow, and for that reason I can't give this story the coveted ADHD Seal of Approval. To be honest, it was a bit difficult for me to read, much as I loved the story and wanted to keep reading. There were multiple times when picking it up again just felt a bit daunting for me.
However, and this is very important, I actively WANTED to keep reading, much as the read was a bit of a challenge for my ADHD idled mind. The story itself is quite compelling, so much so that I willingly and often eagerly accepted the challenge to my abysmal attention span. The story at its root is about regrets and burdens being manifested into almost literal demons, not entirely unlike the movie Flatliners. The female protagonist Saffron finds herself being assaulted by the manifestations of her regrets surrounding an accident she caused which lead to the death of multiple people. Most importantly, the twin brother of the male protagonist, Jack.
This leads to all sorts of compelling and often gut-wrenching reveals as Saffron unknowingly comes into contact with Jack, but also as Jack beings to discover that the death of his brother might not have been an accident. These two stories tangent alongside each other separately until they're brilliantly merged drawing towards the book's conclusion.
But if you want a story with rich tangible characters and a deeply compelling storyline, look no further than 3:33 Am. I consider it a "must-read."