Saturday, April 28, 2007

Review: Darkside

The second of my IPST reviews is for the novel Darkside written by S.K.S Perry (available as a download on his website: The blurb provided on Mr. Perry's website has this to say about the story:

James Decker just won’t stay dead. Slain while rescuing a young woman from a would-be rapist, he finds himself in a pseudo-life, caught between two realities, belonging to neither. Haunted by the ghosts of his father and grandfather, he learns that the woman he rescued is in fact an Innocent, the physical embodiment of hope. As it turns out, seeing dead people is the least of James' worries. It's the trolls, goblins, vampires, and other assorted creepy-crawlies that make being dead a living nightmare.

When a Madness Demon kidnaps the Innocent to sacrifice at the Blood Moon ritual, it's up to James and an odd assortment of Otherworld companions to rescue her. If they fail, humanity will be without hope for the next thousand years. To succeed, James must first battle his own inner demons, and come to grips with who and what he has become. After all, when you're dead, wishing you were is kind of counter-productive

Frankly, where the blurb for The Mars Run failed, this blurb worked great. It made me want to read the book. Unfortunately, this book has apparently not been picked up by a publisher and I sincerely hope that IPST gets him a better shot at that. Of course at 84K words it's still a little shorter than I expect for a novel, as I was able to finish it after dinner and a trip to the store and before bed (for the record the trip to the store ended at 8pm and bed was at 1am - so it took me about 5 hours of reading time). This is not my usual space fantasy or Sci-Fi, but rather a supernatural fantasy. And it was a good change of pace for my reading palate.

The main (and POV) character is James Decker, and I must say, he follows the Hero's Journey really well here. I think a lot of that might have something to do with my enjoyment of the book - I'm a sucker for a hero who follows the Hero's Journey. But above that, James is snide and sarcastic at his best. I can relate to a hero who makes jokes at the expense of his friends and allies. James is the newest of the Eternals (there are six others) - a spirit being caught between life and death. This is an interesting concept, and (take this with a grain of salt as my supernatural/fantasy reading is light) not one that I've seen before. Basically what this means is that he's not alive, but he's not dead. He's kind of like a good guy zombie without a real body.

The supporting cast include a wide-range of beings. Everything from a medium to a vampire-faerie. Yes, I said vampire-faerie. It's complicated.

Anyways, the supporting cast are all well defined extensions, each with their own way of acting and speaking, they feel just as alive and important as the main character. Which is always a good thing. And some of the events surrounding the secondary characters caught me off guard, and I mean that in a good way. I was genuinely surprised and upset over what happened to the characters.

There is one small drawback. The villains. The villains are all fairly two-dimensional characters. They're big and bad and mean, but we don't know what drives them. They're not given the same screen time as the other characters. Of course this is more of a drawback to the fact that the story is written in first person, but there are ways around that.

The plot is a rescue the girl plot, but the fun way that it is orchestrated and carried out is well done. My only complaint in this regard is the use of a dues ex machina in order to solve the problems of the plot. Sure, he set up the dues ex machina in the story earlier, and gave hints when it began, but in the end the device was used rather than anything the main character set out to do. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not - but it did solve a lot of problems the main character was having. Which of course is the point of a dues ex machina.

The settings were somewhere in Canada (Darkside according to the supernatural folk) and then Summerland (home of the supernatural folks). Ultimately though, the settings are not overly important and Mr. Perry provides us with the necessary data to know what the narrator is seeing. Frankly, I think if he had provided more then it would have adversely affected the story.

Mr. Perry's "voice" is an easy to read one. He used a first-person narrator which made certain narrative choices as far as the information available to the reader goes. Of course this is a double-edged sword. It allowed us to really feel James' confusion and and dismay at the events surrounding him. But at the same time left the villains as two-dimensional characters. It's not a bad choice - but with all the things that are going on in this story I'm not sure if it was the best choice. Of course that is a value judgment call, and not exactly one that I can make for the author or other readers. Typos were few and far between - and I can only remember one off of the top of my head.

I've been waiting for this part of the review. The theme. The theme is a fun one, and probably my favorite part of this story. It's a theme about life and death obviously - but more to the point it is a theme concerning what one should do to continue living after the death of someone they love. Mr. Perry approached this theme in a very novel way, he killed the main character to teach him the point. James never understood about having, much less how, to continue living until after his death.

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. It was fun. My only concern is that it is a story not quite ready for the adult fiction shelves. Frankly, I think the novel would be better handled if it was edited slightly and turned in as a young-adult or teen reader. That's not to say the story is bad or lacks depth - after all Luisa May Alcott's books are classified as young-adult/teen readers. But unlike The Mars Run, this story reads like something I wouldn't mind a 10-15 year old reading. Even as it stands - there's no explicit sex, a minimum of cursing and the violence is not used gratuitously. Frankly, we met one other Eternal in this story - and I for one would like to read more and find out what happens to James and the gang when he gets around to meeting the rest of them. I liked James and his situation enough that I want to read more about him. And that's where the author has succeeded with this novel.

I give it a 3.4 out of 4.


RJ Peters said...

Another good review. I admire your voracious literary appetite.

S.K.S. Perry said...

You're the first person to review Darkside, ever. Can't say I can argue with any thing you said.

The sequel is finished, btw, but I'm hoping to actually be able to sell something someday. *g*

Do you mind if I link to your review, or quote you?

Thanks a bunch.

Stephen Wrighton said...

RJ_Peters: Thanks! And yeah, I have something of a voracious literary appetite...

S.K.S. Perry: :) Well, I ecstatic to do so - and even more happy that you felt the review did justice to the book. It's great that you've finished the sequel, and hope that you'll sell something someday. Preferably soon.

As for the link/quote, I don't mind at all, just give a link or what-not to the site.

Thanks for offering the story for IPST.

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