Book Review: The Escape Book by Ivan Tapia

The Escape Book, I Tapia

Source: Goodreads

I had a bit of a struggle rating this book if truth be told. I couldn’t decide on my final rating for a while just because I had very conflicting views on the book. On the one hand, it was a lot of fun to complete, and I did enjoy the puzzles and the general novelty of an escape room in book form. On the cover it says it’s the “first book based on the puzzle of escape rooms” and I’m excited that this is now a thing. On the other hand, the writing wasn’t the best and the content of the book tended to jerk you out of tension of the situation. Please keep reading for my review and, as always, I’ve added the review to Goodreads so please add me there.

I’ve played a good few escape rooms. I love an escape room. They’re exciting and fun and when done properly actually do have a good amount of tension. The puzzles are intriguing but not impossible, and they challenge you to see things in entirely new ways. So when I saw an escape room AS A BOOK in a local gift shop in Edinburgh I was very excited. I actually bought this as a Christmas gift for my flatmate (who also enjoys escape rooms) and we completed it together on New Years Eve, going in to New Years morning.

The layout of the book is good. There are chapters describing what is happening followed by a puzzle to solve. The solution to each puzzle is a page number so you skip around the book to each chapter as you solve the puzzles. The puzzles themselves were for the most part good. There was a mix of easier and harder ones, and we did have fun solving them. There are lists of clues at the back of the book that you can look at if you’re stuck, and we did use these a few times. There were some puzzles where we were doing the right things but didn’t seem to get the right answers and there were a couple that we felt we didn’t have all the information we needed before looking at the clues so they didn’t make as much sense as they could have, but for the most part we found them a good mix of puzzles. I did like the layout of chapters followed by puzzles you had to solve in order to get to the right section of the book to continue.

The premise of the escape book was…perhaps not as interesting to me as the puzzles. The character, who the reader is playing, is named Candela Fuertes. She’s an investigative reporter who has stumbled upon a story involving a millionaire businessman, Castian Warnes and his elite group of other businessmen and their plot to make money and to make themselves infamous. Warnes hides his secrets in his mansion protected by a “bordering illegal” security system called the Daedalus – it’s a maze. We (Candela) have broken in to the maze and have been poisoned. We have 60 minutes to live and find the antidote at the centre of the maze.

I don’t want to give anything away in case you want to play this yourselves, so I’m not going to go into the plot of the book. But there’s a lot of talk about the stock market and business and finance in this book between the puzzles. Now, perhaps it’s because I have little interest in business, or perhaps it is because the longer chapters with flashbacks and information about the world stock exchange sort of seemed like they were wasting the little time Candela had, but I found the actual plot of the book a bit boring. I just don’t think it’s for me. I would have enjoyed this just as much, and probably more actually, if it had been a maze constructed by a serial killer who we were investigating, or a mad scientist or something. I’ll stress that I don’t think the WHOLE book was boring. There were some very interesting bits, especially when she delved a bit more into the psychology of Warnes. It just felt like some of the chapters were too long and had too much irrelevant information considering the point of an escape room is its sense of urgency.

I didn’t know that the book was published in Spanish and translated into English, and perhaps that’s why the writing style sometimes felt a bit clunky. I don’t know Spanish so I wouldn’t be able to comment on if it flows better in its original language. Of some amusement was one particular sentence where the character’s name inexplicably changed from Candela to Carmela. It’s only once and we just don’t know what happened there?! Again, maybe it’s a mistake in the translation or maybe the author just forgot his character’s name for a second before recovering it. I will say that the puzzles and the novelty of an escape room in book form were far more conductive to my desire to finish the book that the story and the writing.

I probably wouldn’t want to do this myself, but then escape rooms are designed for teams so maybe that doesn’t matter. My flatmate and I did have a good time reading this, and for the most part we enjoyed the puzzles and the experience of the book. I gave the book a 3 for puzzles and layout, and a 2 for story and writing, but rounded it up to a 3 altogether. Like I said, maybe the subject matter just wasn’t for me but I felt that the excessive information dumps just meant that some of the tension dissipated because the character, and therefore the reader, kept wasting time recapping circumstances that were not perhaps relevant.

I’ve used this book for the Popsugar reading challenge number 46 – ‘A book with no chapters/unusual chapter headings/ unconventionally numbered chapters’ as the jumping around and completing puzzles in order to get to the right page numbers and progress further in the book definitely count as unusual in my mind!

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