Review: Black Mad Wheel

Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel
Author: Josh Malerman
Publisher: Ecco
Genre/Themes: Horror
Release Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Ebook



The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious-and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.


Josh Malerman’s first novel, Bird Box, is my all-time favourite horror novel. It’s the only book that has truly frightened me and I thought it was remarkably atmospheric and suspenseful. I quickly decided that I would be reading all of Josh Malerman’s future books. I was extremely excited when I heard his sophomore novel was coming out and I was intrigued by the premise, though I did notice a vague similarity to Bird Box. In his first novel, the sight of some unknown entity renders a person insane, and in this one, a mysterious sound causes dramatic effects in both people and inanimate objects.

Nevertheless, I put my reservations aside and dove into this book expecting amazing things and I was so very disappointed. This book was not atmospheric, not tense, and not the least bit scary. It was a let down in every way. I wasn’t invested in the plot at all, nor did I believe it. I had to suspend disbelief at the fact that the military would send musicians to look for a mysterious sound in the African desert. The military is not known for outsourcing. In fact, my biggest problem with this book was that the plot barely made any sense. It had elements that had potential (crazy doctor, mysterious sound, possibly supernatural entity), but it tied together so poorly. I still don’t understand the motivations of any of the characters.

Speaking of the characterization, it was not anywhere near as well done as Bird Box. I didn’t like or dislike Philip Tonka or Ellen. There was also a strange instalove in this book that really confused me. I did like the relationship between the four band members and I thought that was the most authentic relationship in the book, but it wasn’t developed or written about for a long period of time.

The only redeeming thing about this novel was the fact that Josh Malerman can write really well, and even though his writing didn’t draw me into this story, I know he’s talented enough to draw me into another one if the story actually connects with me. Yes, I’m disappointed by this book, but that may just be due to the fact that this story wasn’t for me. I will still be reading all of Josh Malerman’s future novels.

I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.