If you grew up in the 1980’s, there is a chance that the “Satanic Panic” affected your life in some way. For myself, a nerdy, Dungeons & Dragons playing kid growing up in semi-rural New Mexico, the “Panic” glanced off of a lot of our community. There were always whispers of rituals and Satanic graffiti popping up in abandoned buildings, and many many rumors of both the humorous and downright terrifying swirled around us constantly. Proctor and Gamble were a company who promoted the occult through their product logos, Liz Claiborne went on Oprah and said she gave profits to a Satanic cult, and even McDonalds and the Smurfs were in on the rise of Satanism and the Mystical in our nation that was quickly sloughing off it’s good Christian roots.
This is the world that Mr. Chapman brings Whisper Down the Lane into.
This is the story of Richard… or is it Sean… an art teacher at an elementary school in a sleepy little town that has just gained a bit more attention by the hipster city-set looking to come to somewhere “quaint” to raise their brood.
Something, however, is rotten in the city of Danvers, and it very strangely starts to mirror Richard’s — or is it Sean’s — past.
Then we start to learn some things. Richard Bellamy used to be Sean Crenshaw: a boy who, in 1982, was pulled into what can only be described as one of the biggest shitstorms of the Satanic Panic.
Rather than say anything more about the plot of this gem, let’s take a look at Mr. Chapman’s approach to building terror and uncertainty into a story. In The Remaking, Mr. Chapman totally drew me in with an approach he similarly uses here in Whisper Down the Lane. I like to think of it of the old adage about putting a frog in a pot of water and slowly bringing it to a boil. The frog (allegedly) won’t notice until it is far too late. That is how Mr. Chapman writes horror, and Whisper Down the Lane is a perfect example. Yeah, this weird Sean story is building in alternate chapters, but Richard really has his shit together. Then, quite suddenly, peanut butter meets chocolate, and the whole house of cards explodes. There is such a subtlety of tone, and even sanity, that just makes this novel a joy to read. Yes, it’s not perfect, but it is a wonderful homage to so many other masters of the craft. Certain scenes and situations may seem clichéd, but that is because they draw from the very origin of the cliché, and that is the purest form of flattery. Plus, it really does add to the depth of the story in a way that isn’t remotely cheesy or contrived.
Hell, there’s even a “made for TV” movie reference in there.
** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **
Sometimes you stumble on a book that hits all the right buttons at just the right time. Boy howdy, The City of Dusk sure did.
Set in the realm of Nexus (a very telling name, no?) in the city of Vaega, The City of Dusk is the story of four noble houses: each with their own divine magic affiliation and abilities. Well, really it’s about the heirs of these houses and their interaction with each other, their deities, and with the impending doom they sense coming.
The gods these houses descended from have shut off the realm that contains Nexus from the other realms of magic. To add a special twist, the Holy King may announce one of the heirs the heir to the crown at any moment.
Yeah, all the makings of some serious grimdark tomfoolery.
Above all The City of Dusk massively excels at a pervasive inner conflict that roils through each and every one of the main characters. Attitudes, allegiances and even relationships sway back and forth, caroming off of every obstacle imaginable. Just when things begin to even out a little bit, some new bit of madness drops in out of the ether and everything is upended. As a plot device, however, it really really adds to the sense of uncertainty that is practically a character in its own right. Ms. Sims deftly weaves together impossible and improbable situations that each of the heirs has to traverse, and, in some cases, there doesn’t seem to be a plausible “right answer” that can be achieved. It’s absolutely delicious.
This is a series that is going to pain me greatly to have to wait for. This first book isn’t even officially “out in the wild,” and I’m craving the second. This book is definitely bound to be on several of the “best of” lists for 2022. On March 22, make sure you have your copy.
Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff are deities at creating perfect YA science fiction trilogies. The Illuminae Files was just an incredible experience of whirlwind storytelling piled on with some crazy space action, and The Aurora Cycle follows suit without even being the least bit derivative.
It’s almost sickening how deft these two are and cranking these literary Skittles out.
So, Aurora’s End. It’s hard to believe, with the amount of crap Squad 312 has gone through, that this is only the third book in the series. Worst of all, they’ve committed the mortal tabletop gaming sin of splitting the party.
Now, each group isn’t sure if the other is alive, and there is a whole lot of shenanigans going on to prevent this gigantic hive-mind galactic threat that has pretty much thwarted our protagonists (and even a couple of the anti-heroes and one supreme baddie) in the previous books.
Seeing that this is the wrap-up of a trilogy, I’m going to say exactly squat about what transpires in Aurora’s End. Instead, I strongly suggest you, gentle reader, grab up this fully formed — and now finished — trilogy to consume, like Power Pellets on a Pac-Man board, for yourself.
All of the characters are so well developed, and really take on so many more incredible traits and personalities as the trilogy progresses. There are so many “No effing way!” moments in all three books, especially Aurora’s End, that, as a reader, you just start to expect the most incredibly insane things to happen.
Great books, great authors. This series is an absolute no-brainer for spacey sci-fi folks.