Every once in a while a novel comes crashing in from the left field burning like falling star with pure white hot brilliance. A novel so brilliant and beautifully written, it makes you wonder if you can do it any justice in a review.
When something resembling a meteorite crashes into the ocean three strangers each isolated by their own problems must come together to save not only themselves but the fate of the world as well. Bound together by Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars these three will embark on the most wondrous adventure since The Wizard Of Oz.
Those of you who like me have any involvement with The Scouts will know all to well the horrors of going away on a Scout Camp. Camping in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by lots of smell spotty kids, the thought of something straight out of a horror movie finding your camp and working it's way through the kids is one that will come to you every night.
So when Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boy scouts into the Canadian wilderness, he will live the dream that all Scoutmasters secretly dream of.......
The world of horror is full of old tropes and rehashed ideas, it's a genre that is often accused of being unoriginal, musty and stale. Scratch beneath the surface, brush away the dust and peer beneath tarnished glass and you will find a genre brimming with talent and brilliant ideas. Some of these books like Enter at Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences will command your attention. They force the genre to pull itself up from the gutter,. Dark, dense stories that command your attention, devoid of blood soaked horror, the stories held with in it's pages illicit feelings of fear and terror, via a subtle, macabre style of story. These atmospheric tales take their inspiration from the genres past masters,such as Poe, Lovecraft, and Irving. Using these past masters most famous works as a foundation for their tales, some of the genres modern masters take us the readers on a re-imaging through the gothic heart of horror.
There are certain books out there that are so immersive that they transcend the printed medium. Their narrative if so tight that the act of reading them makes you forget that this is a book you are reading. Drawn into it's plots and protagonists the book transform from a written story into a full blown assault on the senses. You begin to see the action unfolding in your minds eye, the sounds and smells of the story's landscape fill your head and add extra depth to the brilliant narrative. Gary McMahon's Reaping The Dark is one such novella. Combining gritty crime, tense siege, and chilling supernatural narratives into one lean mean beast McMahon shapes this novella into something special.
The ominous prologue introduces us to the dark and dangerous world of black magic, hinting at what to come,a Revenant has been called into to world. Tasked with a job this dark beast will not stop until it has completed its task.
Cut to the story's hero, Clarke, a getaway driver for hire, a man who likes to think he is in complete control. Brought up as an orphan Clarke is a man with very few ties.
"Never buy anything you can't afford to leave behind"
That's his motto, and that goes for everything, friends and family included. Those that work with him only know him as Driver Z. Only his partner Martha, and his confident / gobetween Oakes really know who he is. So when a drug deal on which he has been hired goes South, Clarke only has these two people to turn to. Pursued by gun toting crime boss and a creature from the abyss Clarke must fight for his very existence.
Remember those golden years of cinema when cool ruled? When Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen ruled the silver screen. Well Reaping The Dark captures that essence of cool beautifully. Clarke has the same ice cold coolness about him that made Dirty Harry and Bullitt so great. The narrative is so lean and perfectly honed it races along like a classic Dodge Charger. No word or phrase is wasted as McMahon steers the narrative to its ice cold finale.
In many ways the books reminds of Kill List. Both of them have lean, tense and shocking plots, and both of them succeed in that nigh impossible task of merging reality and the unreal. A lot of the time when books like this try to mix reality with the supernatural it feels forced, almost tacked on. Reaping The Dark, feels real, the two worlds combining effortlessly to create a narrative that just feels natural. Clarke's plight at rescuing Martha from the calm yet psychotic McKenzie, plays out perfectly alongside the Revenant and his shadowy masters the Order of The Dark Veil. And as for the ending, WOW!.
Reaping the Dark is one of the best novellas I have read in a long time. McMahon has always been one of my favourite authors, but with this book he cemented his reputation as a master of the genre.
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Short stories, I just can't seem to escape from them these days. Hot on the heels of yesterdays review comes this one for Nicholas Vince's Other Peoples Darkness. Which is kind of fitting as I read both books at the same time, that's the curse of getting two books that are so good at the same time. You give each book a quick five minutes to get a feel for it then suddenly find yourself hooked on each one.
Other People's Darkness is one of those books that surreptitiously gets its hooks into your brain and refuse to let go until you turn the final page......
Short stories are the bane of my life. I love them as an art form, but from the point of view of writing reviews they are a real pain. More so with single author collections, the main reason for this is that most authors have a particular style and voice and when faced with writing a review of thirteen stories all from the same author, I generally shiver at the thought of finding ways to convey my thoughts on the individual stories. So it's a pleasant surprise to find an author who sounds as though he has a number of different voices in head, all screaming to have their words put down in story form...