Book Review: Darkness on the edge of town

A good friend of mine recently pointed out that its generally considered bad form to have a blog and just talk about your own writing. So, I’m going to talk about someone elses for a change.

I read Brian Keene’s “Darkness on the edge of town” yesterday, and thought I would share my thoughts with you.

I will start this review off by stating that I am a big fan of Brian Keene’s work. While some of his books have been a little hit and miss, he has also produced some absolute blinders that have stayed with me for months after reading them.

The premise is this. The inhabitants of a small town called Walden wake one morning to discover that the sun did not rise. All utilities are out, there is no communication with the outside world, and on the outskirts of town lays a thick curtain of darkness.

Any of this sounding familiar yet? A little bit like Stephen King’s “Under the dome” perhaps?

While the basic idea is similar, these two books are very different beasts. While King’s novel was a beautifully described rambling monster of a novel that suffered from some pacing problems, “Darkness” is a fast paced, adrenaline fuelled rollercoaster ride that comes in at less than a quarter of the size of “Under the dome”.

Fans of Keene’s earlier work will see an expansion of his Labyrinth mythology that has been a common theme in many of his books. There are quite a few references to other books, without this one being directly linked to any of them, or requiring prior knowledge of them to enjoy. With Keene’s adherence to the multiple alternate realities theory, fans of the series could almost consider this to be a “What If…” sequel to Ghost Walk, where the protagonists in that book failed to stop the threat.

However, there are a couple of niggles that I have. First of all, because of the style of the narrative (first person, past tense) we are limited to a fairly narrow view of proceedings. The author’s choice, to write the novel in the style of a “found notebook” means that we are always going to be limited to a single character’s point of view, and a fairly ambiguous ending that will annoy some (although there are clues within the story that make it a little more obvious as to what happens to the characters after the story ends).

There is also a fairly hefty chunk of exposition prior to the last act, where we get brought up to speed on the aforementioned Labyrinth mythology, which slows things down and gives a lot of information that readers of his other work will already be familiar with.

The biggest issue, however, is with the final act of the book. I am not talking about the ambiguity of the ending here either. There is a great deal of potential for conflict that just does not get used. Nothing is really resolved and the characters do not even directly participate in events. As a result, the ending sort of fizzles out without any real climax to speak of.

Those things aside, I enjoyed the novel, and read the whole thing in a day, which is always a good sign. Fans of Keene’s work will devour this book; however it’s not his best work by a long shot.

Overall score – 3 out of 5


~ by graemereynolds on May 27, 2010.

One Response to “Book Review: Darkness on the edge of town”

  1. Woops. I left a comment for this on the thread below. Sorry.

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