Saturday, October 25, 2014

This Brilliant Darkness - Red Tash

    2013; 228 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Paranormal Horror.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    Bloomington, Indiana is a weird place to be right now.  First of all, there’s that mysterious-acting star heading its way, and it can only be seen from in and around Bloomington itself.  Then there's the brutal and unsolved murder-mutilation of a girl in the park.

    Like everyone else, Christine Grace, a professor at the city’s university, is concerned about the killing.  But then strange things start happening in her life.  Like seeing monstrous, dark, flying creatures.  And being instantly (and roughly) transported from one side of town to the other.  With no discernible cause.  And for no apparent reason.

    Something is afoot.  Or a wing.  Or a beak. Or a claw.

What’s To Like...
    There’s a “Dramatis Personae” at the beginning of the book.  This comes in handy, since the POV switches from one character to another with each new chapter.  Sometimes it’s a third-person narrative; sometimes it’s first-person.  Sometimes the character whose POV is being told is given at the start of the chapter; sometimes not.

    The pacing is good.  You quickly figure where out this is all heading to, although just what the outcome will be is anybody’s guess.  There aren’t any appreciable plot twists, but the tension builds steadily as the Ultimate Evil (“UE”) manipulates things to set up the climactic showdown.  The book ends at a logical point, but this is not a standalone novel.  A sequel is apparently in the works, but isn’t out yet.

    I don't recall ever reading a book set in Bloomington, so I'm guessing this is Red Tash’s stomping grounds.  The “inner circle” of Christine’s university friends and colleagues are all kind of the same shade of pleasantness.  I felt like they were patterned after people the author knows.  The peripheral characters are more diverse, although a couple of them (Badger, Blake, Fengrid) get introduced and then go nowhere.  By far the most interesting character is Greachin, the UE.

    There are a bunch of religious allusions - Tibetan lamas, a monk clinging tenaciously to his vow of silence, Joseph & Mary, etc.  I feared for a while that the book was a piece of camouflaged religious proselyting (one of my pet peeves), but happily, this wasn't the case.  The language is sometimes R-rated, but felt appropriate for the genre.  Last but not least, there is a subtle flow of wit and humor throughout the book, which I especially liked.

Kewlest New Word . . .
Ruah (n.) : The vital principle or animating force in living beings.

    Tom shrugged.  “You got anything stronger than this?” he asked, holding up his water.
    “Some Upland Wheat in the fridge,” Richard answered.  Don’t know if I should stand up and get it, though.
    “I’ll get it.  You want one?”
    “With a head injury?  Why not?” Richard answered.  “Not too early for you?”
    “Hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere,” Tom replied.  (loc. 2201)

    “You are alien?” Greachin asked.
    “No.”  Richard was startled by the question.  He couldn’t think what to reply.  “No.  Are you?”
    Greachin stared at him, opened his beak, and hissed a putrid hormonal breath.
    “Yes, of course, you are, how silly of me,” said Richard.  (loc. 3713)

Kindle Details...
    This Brilliant Darkness sells for $0.99 at Amazon, which is a great price for a full-length novel.  Red Tash’s other novel, Troll or Derby, and 4 short stories, all go for the same price.

”When am I going to learn to stop questioning Authority and just eat the Soylent Green?”  (loc. 1349)
    Alas, although the storyline itself was good, I found the telling of it marred by some significant head-scratchers and WTF’s, and they made for a confusing read.  A couple examples (spoiler-free) :

    NASA (and therefore the US government) is aware of the approaching “only seen over Bloomington” star, yet only a single expert is sent to observe it, and he’s a geezer from across the pond.  Coincidentally, said geezer just happens to already be best e-mail buddies with Christine.

    The grisly murder understandably causes concern within Christine's collegiate circles, but no police investigation ensues.  There are multiple sightings of monstrous critters by Christine and her friends (so we can rule out personal hallucinations), yet they never think to report these to any authorities.

    How and why did Christine get zapped clear across town?  How and why did she later end up naked and unconscious in a dark alley, with no recollection of what happened?  Did the crazy monk serve any purpose at all?

    I suppose some of these might be resolved in the sequel, but none of them are addressed here.  Add to this some dreadful mangling of Quantum Physics and some hinted-at, but never realized, Time Travel, and you end up with a disjointed, incoherent tale.

   Which is too bad, because This Brilliant Darkness is a fast-moving, entertaining book, provided you can put the thinking half of your brain to sleep while reading it.
    5½ Stars.  Add 1½ stars if you could care less about WTF’s and head-scratchers, as long as there are blood, entrails, and psychotic things that go bump the dark.

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