by Brian Keene
Published by Leisure Books, 2010.
So, you wait years for a ‘town cut off by unknown forces’ novel and what do you know, two come along at once. First Stephen King’s Under The Dome and now Brian Keene’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town but what different beasts they are. Whilst King’s was a lumbering behemoth, Keene’s is a fast footed predator, Where Kings was the trans-Siberian express, all fantastic vistas, epic journey and slightly disappointing ending, Keene’s is an endless ghost train, full of visceral shocks, thrills and pace. The amazing thing is though, that despite the thematic similarities and the different styles, both books are fantastic horror novels.
When people awaken to darkness in Walden, Virginia they immediately dismiss is as power cut, solar eclipse or some man made temporary blip. It’s not long however, before they find out the darkness is not temporary and their lives are about to descend into chaos.
Not only is the entire town dark but the outskirts of the town are even darker, “its not just dark, its the dark”. Robbie Higgins, girlfriend Christy and neighbour Russ are among the residents faced with the darkness. It soon becomes clear that like the majority of society these days Robbie and his pals know nothing about the rest of the community they live in, it’s a “nation of strangers”. The community is forced to interact to try to combat the darkness but they are faced with increasing tension and violence which seems to be emanating from the darkness.
The darkness continues it’s malevolent campaign to reach the inhabitants of the town but is thwarted by some mysterious markings somebody has drawn at key points. Without electricity or water society crumbles and chaos ensues. Cue scenes of tragedy, horror and sheer lunacy.
Keene’s writing is powerful and pacy and amidst the gore there are some truly tragic scenes as well as some powerful moments which question basic human nature and values. Then along comes another comparison with King’s book, where Under The Dome had, in my opinion, a weak ending which revealed the rather fragile premise on which the whole book was built, Keene takes the opposite tack and doesn’t end the book at all. We, the readers, are left to decide the characters fate as the book ends on a cliffhanger. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it gives the reader a choice based on their own personality, pessimist or optimist, good or bad ending, its up to you. On the other hand it all feels like a bit of a cop out. The book is fairly short, definitely a short novel or a long novella, and I felt there was room for expansion. Structurally it may have been difficult given the narrative format but for a writer of Keene’s ability it would have been possible.
So full marks to Brian Keene for coming up with an original plot, engaging characters and some truly memorable scenes but sorry, lose one point because I for one, want to know what happened. Recommended but here’s hoping for a sequel. You can read more about Brian Keene here or Leisure books here.
Rating 4 out of 5