An escalating thriller that builds tension, only to be quickly released by a rushed ending.
The premise centres on a group of individuals who’ve been captured and placed within a maze in Australia. Upon meeting in the centre point of the map, with directions provided by an electronic pocket device, they’re all given a choice that will shape their survival.
Either proceed North, East, South or West to receive food, weapons, survival/medicine, or information.
They all agree to bring everything back to the centre and share out everything they find.
As you can imagine, this is where the group begins to break down.
While away, they all receive information that the only way to leave the giant landscape maze is by being the last survivor. Straight away, this creates a divide in the group between the physically strong and the more intellectual individuals.
Second, not everyone wants to fully share the resources they gained from their trip. This is understandable given the situation because offering up everything at once would leave you vulnerable to attack.
As the story goes on, Fujiki and Ai, the main characters, follow the instructions given to them by the electronic device to different destinations that offer up more information.
It becomes apparent quickly that information is the most essential form of survival, giving those in the know a heads up on everything around them.
Which Way is Out?
As a thriller, The Crimson Labyrinth works as a great tension builder. Although the character development throughout is minimal, you still feel for them and the situations they fall under.
These situations are none more potent than the scenes in which two of the ‘players’ begin capturing other members of the group to ward off their own hunger. Yep, cannibalism in all its gory detail.
The portrayal of madness is done well, showing the slipping of the mind when faced with dire consequences, making it difficult to function, let alone know who to trust.
Running in Circles
Unfortunately, any goodwill I had towards this book went out the window in the closing chapters.
I won’t spoil it, but I felt it was rushed; ‘Oh no, how will we ever get out alive? He’s going to kill us. Oh, we’ve done it;’ that sort of thing.
Given how the protagonist and supporting characters had been built to that point, they were most vulnerable to those physically stronger and lacking in any sort of violent conviction.
You can imagine my shock when they suddenly pull both these traits out the bag just in time to save the day. It felt like such a cop-out.
However, given the style it had been written to this point, it was impossible to guess what would happen and having thought about it, I can’t think of a plausible ending. This makes it a bit of a lazy plot; deceptive, but lazy.
An excellent tension builder that’s ultimately let down by a weak ending. I don’t regret reading The Crimson Labyrinth but it’s not a title you’ll ever go back to.
The characters are decent, but nothing special; however, the world contained within the maze is engrossing given the different environments it holds.
The book fails in becoming a compelling read for anyone who’s ever read a survival genre before.