As a massive fan of Brian Keene, I go into any new book of his with certain expectations. It does not matter whether said new release is his typical horror fare, or whether it represents Keene stretching his wings and trying something different. In fact, I tend to enjoy it when authors take chance and try something else, even if my enjoyment of such releases tends to vary.
So it was with The Lost Level, Keene's pastiche to numerous authors and their significant works, including Edgar Rice Burroughs and Joe R Lansdale, as well as a TV series I have fond memories of from my very early youth, Land of the Lost.
The plot is simple: Occultist Aaron Pace pays the price for being nonchalant with his travels between dimensions and winds up in a dimension from where there is no escape, the titular Lost Level. It happens to be a place where the refuse from all kinds of inter-dimensional rifts wash up, so it isn't long before Aaron - who is recounting his tale in a notebook he has come across many years after the events he is describing - runs afoul of all manner of weird and wonderful beasts. When he recuses a native woman and a blackish-blue, bipedal, cat-like-monkey creature from a group of upright lizard men, the rest of the book concerns itself with Aaron and his new companions making their way back to the woman's tribe and all that the things they encounter along the way.
It's a simple, straight-up pulp read, which is enhanced by a strong familiarity with Keene's Labyrinth mythos, since everything from Clickers, to zombies caused by Hamelin's Revenge, to a supporting character from a short story he wrote called Lost Canyon of the Damned included in An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley make an appearance.
Other than this, what you see, is what you get. Keene's prose is always smooth and unassuming, easy on the eyes and the literary palate. And yet it still took me a over a week to read this 170 page novella. I puzzled over why I was prioritising everything else that I was reading, but I could come up with nothing more enlightening than The Lost Level never really grabbed me. It's a solid read, and I'll likely return for the sequels it sets up, but I won't be chafing at the bit for it in the way I am regarding several of Keene's other upcoming projects.
Recommended to those looking for a decent adventure yarn.
3 Possible Answers to the Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle for The Lost Level.