Friday, September 9, 2011

Beware the Darkest Dark of Night


A nearly-packed plane en route to Atlanta, departing several hours late from Denver, takes to the skies in the wee hours of a cloudy night with a passenger list ranging from the merely-inconvenienced and tired to the openly-disgruntled and testy. It will soon turn into a flight like none of them has ever experienced... nor even dreamt of in a nightmare, for that matter.
The switch from the rocking evening shift to the easy-listening, night-owls-only one is currently in progress at KMRT, a tiny radio station in small-town Jesman’s Bend, Colorado. Those loneliest hours of the night before dawn are about to become a whole lot lonelier. 
A handsome--albeit somehow “off”--young man, gloating over the fact that his identity as the city’s infamous killer, the “Mummy-Man”, is still unknown, gains entry into the home of his latest, soon-to-be-very-unlucky victim. Unbeknownst to the killer, he will shortly be getting more--and less--than that for which he bargained.
A middle-aged widow--who staves off the loneliness by listening to (and conversing with) all the voices in her head (voices of all the children she and her dead husband never had)--contemplates how to spend the following day. In her wildest dreams, she could never have envisioned how the next 48 hours will be spent.
And thus begins the first in Peter Crowther’s new, apocalyptic “Forever Twilight” sci-fi series, Darkness Falling.
✈ ... ☎ ... ☠ ... ✇
Things are going... well, if not precisely smoothly, then at least more or less predictably for everyone, considering the pre-dawn hour (when few people are awake by choice). Things are humming along mostly okay, that is, until an ear-shatteringly loud boom and a sudden, blindingly-intense flash of light obliterate everyone’s ability to see, hear, move, or think... to do much of anything, in fact, but breathe.
When the sound and light finally recede, the world is tomb-like, blanketed by both an unnatural darkness--a complete and utter absence of any form of light--and an absolute and eery silence.

It resembles a tomb in one other way, as well; it is almost entirely devoid of living, breathing human beings.
The passengers left on the jet can now be counted on one hand. Likewise, with the inhabitants of admittedly-small (but not that small) Jesman’s Bend. The same seems to be the case wherever you look, actually; nearly everyone, everywhere, has just disappeared... vanished without a trace, into the murky darkness.
Twenty-four hours go by, and then, something strange happens (as if this empty new world didn’t already push the very limits of bizarre); people start returning.
The problem, for those who remained when the others did their presto-magic disappearing acts, is that something just isn’t right about those who’ve come back. (Things such as the dark sunglasses, gloves, and strangely-awkward gaits are obvious clues to that particular bombshell). No, it’s pretty much as wrong as wrong can be, especially once it becomes clear that not only are the returnees altered... but that they seem to have some mighty evil plans in store.
✈ ... ☎ ... ☠ ... ✇
Author Crowther shows an impressive patience when setting things up, letting us get a real feel for the main characters (so that the choices they make and the sometimes-extreme actions they later take will ring true? so that we’ll be invested in them as people, instead of thinking of them only as convenient props for something to happen to?), and his restraint is effective, allowing, as it does, for a wealth of tension and suspense to build up. Once things start happening, though, it’s a no-holds-barred, full-on frontal assault of action, terror, and (okay, let's be blunt, here) gore. (If you can’t handle any ookiness whatsoever, then this isn’t for you. Trust me.)  
Darkness Falling is, without a doubt, one of the spookiest, creepiest books I’ve ever read. Ever. (I mean that in a good way, though.) Drawing from those fabulously-fun (and much beloved-by-me in reruns) TV frightfests from days gone by--think “The Twilight Zone”, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”, and “Tales from the Crypt”, here--then pulling in elements from some of the better sci-fi/horror movies and sci-fi/thrillers, and finishing it all off with dollops of relationship drama and tongue-in-cheek humor, Crowther delivers some creepy-cool fun.
As mentioned earlier, if “gruesome” isn’t your bag, you’ll want to steer clear. If, on the other hand, you like to throw a little eyes-wide-open-and-breath-held-in-wincing-anticipation reading into the mix, now and then, this one should find a place on your list. 
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 4 out of 5 (goosebumpy) Catnip Mousies
[Note: Darkness Falling will be released 9/27/11.] 

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