Caleb signs up for a university study because, frankly, he has nothing better to do. He’s lost his girlfriend, lost his drive, and getting free room and board on top of a weekly stipend doesn’t sound too bad. When things start getting weird at orientation, he rolls with it. As their leaders take the volunteers into an isolated mountain retreat, he accepts his lot. He doesn’t even kick up too much of a fuss when he and his friends discover their “Spartan” accommodations aren’t even built yet. Divided into teams, however, the study’s participants slowly begin to turn on each other. As the world falls apart and the stakes rise, people start dying.
A Select Group by Blaine C. Readler is enormously clever and very fun to read. Unique and inventive, it is like a cheerier rendition of Lord of the Flies, even with a down-and-out lead character. The ensemble of characters and their transgressions are both riveting and amusing.
There are a couple points where the urge to sneak in a touch of humor feel disingenuous. For example, after an assault where a girl is forcibly stripped and beaten, there’s an unfortunate quip that makes the scene ugly and jarring. It stands out because the rest of the book is well-crafted and tonally consistent, with Readler effectively adding some apt, but unobtrusive, social notes.
Minor slips aside, A Select Group is definitely a solidly entertaining read from start to finish, with well-drawn characters, a quick-moving plot, and a number of surprises, which characterize Readler’s fiction.