I finished Cult by Warren Adler about a week ago. I’ve had to take some time to think about my review, because this book didn’t really appeal to me the way I thought it would.
When I read the description of the book, it sounded like something I’d love to read. The book was described as being about a woman who helps her ex-boyfriend retrieve his wife from the clutches of a horrible cult. It claimed that their plans for rescue would be “systematically picked apart” and “dashed by members of the cult past and present.”
I found the book to be a bit lacking when it came to following through on the promise made in its description. I didn’t feel like Naomi and Barney, the woman and her ex-boyfriend mentioned above, made repeated plans to rescue his wife, and while I did see the plans they did make being thwarted, it didn’t feel all that exciting to me. I actually felt quite bored throughout most of the book.
The characters were also lacking. I did not feel at all invested in them, in what happened to them, or the outcome of their journey. They seemed very unemotional, all about logic. I realize there are people that put logic before emotion, but these characters seemed to go beyond that. It was like they had no emotions. There was a point where Barney involves his son in the plot to rescue his wife, and that part really bothered me. As a parent, I would never use my child that way, especially if I felt so strongly that the cult was dangerous. I found it disturbing that this character would use his own child that way, and it eliminated what little possibility remained for me to like Barney.
Naomi was unbelievably rigid in her views, except when she wavered. She was either firmly entrenched in her beliefs, or she would question them at a time that seemed ridiculous. By that, I mean there would be two situations, one that would make anyone question what they think, and another that would be no big deal. The NBD moment always seemed to be the one that would make her falter, rather than the one that would make most people question themselves. It grew annoying very quickly.
What was also annoying was the strength of her rigidity. It was always “this is wrong.” Never “this is wrong, but…”. This grated on me, seeming very unrealistic to me. We all know that killing another person is wrong, but most of us would agree that if someone is attempting to stab you with a knife and you have a chance to kill them and save your own life, it’s okay. But Naomi’s rigidity indicated to me that she would lay there, splay her arms wide and let someone kill her because to kill them would be “wrong.”
The thrilling moments of excitement were few and far between. I expected there to be lots of tension, lots of suspense, lots of “almost but not quite” moments. But there just wasn’t any of that. I would say 90% of the book was spent inside people’s head as they thought about what to do or how to do it or what had already happened or why it happened. The few moments that I felt were exciting, things like when they tried to deprogram some cult members, were too short, or would simply stop being exciting.
The last thing that really bugged me was the mention of other cults. The author would have characters bring up other cults to compare or discuss. But it was the same cults over and over again. The same three cults brought up every time. It was as if the author knew of three cults, and simply used the ones he knew, rather than doing a little research to find a few more to add. They were also three of the most well known cults, ones that stir up strong emotions in people. It felt to me almost like the author was hoping to use the emotions brought up by those names to carry the book.
I know that this author has written other books, books that I have enjoyed. But Cult fell short of my expectations.
*I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
**This page does contain an affiliate link.