I’ve been eagerly looking forward to this one ever since devouring the superlative ‘Chasing Shadows Everywhere’ earlier in the year. Since then, LT Vargus has become LT Vargus and Tim McBain (I guess technically they always were, but whatever), and after a naturalistic standalone novel, this time we’re given the first part of a projected five novel series (!!), ‘Fade To Black’, a dark tale of magical realism.
The authors have lost none of their touch with regards to voice: in the marvellously named Jeff Grobnagger we have a protagonist that is both richly layered and immediately familiar. The first person present narrative puts the reader right into the action from the get-go, and as the novel develops and we discover the many layers to Jeff’s personality our affection for him grows. He’s a relatable person to whom extraordinary things are happening, and the writers do an outstanding job in establishing and developing his character as the plot unfolds. His friend Glenn Floyd is similarly well drawn and enjoyable.
Those ‘extraordinary things’ are also brilliantly written – the otherworldy qualities of the environment Jeff finds himself in are described with elegance and skill, and the snarky voice of the narrator manages to convey humour without undermining the tension or darkness. It’s in many ways a classic story of a person finding a glimpse of another realm, an illness that may or may not be a gift, and magical symbolism, complete with a wiser older hermit figure (the aforementioned Glenn) , alongside shadowy secretive societies which may or may not be acting in Geff’s best interest. The authors manage to breathe fresh life into these well worn tropes, in part by subverting expectations in genuinely funny ways (a moment concerning the identification of a mysterious item left behind by Glenn’s missing daughter was a particular highlight).
The other way they manage to make this feel so fresh is the prose, which is as sparkling and readable as I’ve come across in the indie realm, and puts more than a few traditionally published authors to shame. It’s just so damn smooth, so damn funny, and so damn moreish! This was a strong feature of ‘Chasing Shadows’, and if anything it’s stronger here, even more assured. I found myself reading this very quickly, and on more than one occasion laughing out loud at a particularly well delivered line or turn of phrase.
Indeed, the only significant criticism I have of this book will be a familiar one, I suspect – it was over too soon. Also, as is the nature of the first part of an ongoing series (5 parts is the intention, I am told), far more questions were asked than answered. In this regard, I feel it’s only fair to emphasise that this in not in any way a standalone book, but clearly the opening of a longer narrative, with no real attempt at a resolution at the end of part 1. That’s not an issue for me, (apart from having to wait for part 2, of course!) but I just wanted to put that in as fair warning.
Does it count as horror? Tough call. It’s certainly not gratuitously gory, and the overwhelming sense/feel of the story is not one of dread, exactly. That said, the recurring dream sequences are definitely dark in nature and execution, and there is an underlying menace to proceedings that drives the narrative and characters. If you’re after out and out horror, this may not work for you, but if you like a slice of dark whimsy shot through with sharp humour and characterisation, this should be right up your alley.
In conclusion, this was an incredibly enjoyable experience, and based on ‘Chasing Shadows’, I have every faith that the authors will pay-off this set up in spectacular fashion over the next four books. No pressure guys...
Reviewed by Kit Power
Book 1 of 5 in the epic paranormal suspense series.
Live. Die. Repeat.
Dying violent deaths over and over again totally blows. Loner Jeff Grobnagger has learned this the hard way. Every time he has a seizure, he dreams that a hooded man strangles and kills him. He runs. He fights. He hides. No matter what he does, his efforts end in a pretty bad case of death.
But when someone tries to kill him in real life, he realizes that what happens with the hooded man isn't just a dream.
"Dude, please stop killing me."
Who is the hooded man? And who tried to kill Grobnagger in real life? His quest for answers leads to a missing girl, cults obsessed with astral projection, an arcane puzzle sphere, an evil book, a private detective named Louise and a mustached man named Glenn that makes 'the best martini you've ever tasted.'
Yep. If it weren't for all of the horrific deaths, Jeff Grobnagger would be having the time of his life.
Kit Power lives in Milton Keynes, England, and insists he’s fine with that. His short fiction has been published by Burnt Offering Books and MonkeyKettle Books. A trio of thematically linked novella length tales ‘The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife’ (plus short story ‘The Debt’) and ‘Lifeline’ are available in two volumes via Amazon now. His debut novel (currently called ‘The God Issue’, but that will hopefully change) is due out in Autumn 2014. To stay up to date, check out his Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/Kit-Power/e/B00K6J438K/ . Those of you who enjoy near-professional levels of prevarication are invited to peruse his blog at http://kitpowerwriter.blogspot.co.uk/
He is also the lead singer and chief lyricist for legendary rock band The Disciples Of Gonzo, who have thus far managed to avoid world-conquering fame and fortune, though it’s clearly only a matter of time. They lurk online at http://disciplesofgonzo.com/