Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Bedbugs, by Ben H. Winters

Last spring, I think it was, bedbug phobia seemed to grip the nation, or so it seemed to me: Everyone was talking about bedbugs and how they were running rampant. For the most part, it struck me as much ado about nothing, and kind of made me wish that John Belushi was still alive to play the leader of a swarm of bedbugs - you know, like he did with the killer bees back in the day.

Along comes Quirk Books, tapping into the discussion with Ben H. Winters' Bedbugs,  much as they latched on to the vogue for zombies with their successful and, well, quirky Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I enjoyed that effort, which I can't say of some of the follow-ups, including Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, also by Winters, which seemed like it had the same winning combination (Jane Austen and bizarre creatures) but fell a bit flat to me - probably because it did not tap into the zeitgeist in the same way.

With  Bedbugs, though, Quirk hits the mark, even though they've retreated a bit from the public eye (as bedbugs will do) since the book came out last year. The story concerns a young couple and their young daughter who are miraculously able to find an apartment they can afford in a nice area of Brooklyn. The elderly landlady gives off a slightly spooky vibe, but of course they shrug it off - New York real estate being what it is. Once they move in, their initial slight misgivings start to grow - or at least, the wife Susan's do. They start to notice little things wrong, hear noises, see doors that weren't there before.

Susan's escalating paranoia reminded me a bit of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the book jacket makes the comparison to Rosemary's Baby - which I haven't seen in a very long time and yet immediately saw all the connections to. Or think of your favorite X-Files episode.

My one fairly minor complaint about it was that it felt a bit "written for the screen" at times; but since it was intended as an homage to Rosemary's Baby, it might be intentional. Apart from that, though,  Bedbugs is a quick and fun read and once I finally picked it up and got through a couple of chapters, I couldn't lay it aside.

FTC Disclosure: I won this book in a Facebook contest.

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