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IN THE DARKNESS
Mass Market PB
his family to the quaint village of Ashborough, Dr. Michael Cayle discovers
that the town harbors a deep and deadly secret. A race of creatures known
as Isolates holds the town's population hostage, forcing the inhabitants
of Ashborough to offer periodic sacrifices and generally do their bidding.
I should say from the start that I really wanted to like Michael Laimo's
sophomore effort, DEEP
IN THE DARKNESS. His first novel, ATMOSPHERE, was one of the
strongest debut novels I've read in a while and made Laimo a writer to
watch. So it was with a bit of anticipation that I waited for Laimo's
I wish my wait would have been better rewarded. DEEP
IN THE DARKNESS is a rather uninspired novel that never seems
to get out of first gear. The plot is rather ho-hum, and the characters
seem to have the emotional depth of a cardboard box, especially the main
character and narrator, Michael Cayle. For one who is at the center of
a host of "uncanny" things, Michael remains blithely uncurious
concerning the weirdness that he has inherited with his move to Ashborough.
Upon inspecting the office of the Doctor he has replaced, Michael discovers
vials of disease infected blood, including one marked Bubonic Plague.
His response: "I wonder where he had gotten them from and what they
could be used for. Was it possible that he'd had some patients who'd come down with
Come down with the Bubonic Plague?
Michael is about as curious in finding the plague at his new house
as he would if he had discovered a stack of the old doc's Playboys, with
mild interest and a promise to look deeper into the matter in the morning.
Later, when a pair of near dead deer shows up in his tool shed, Michael
doesn't think it necessary to call someone in authority. I guess he thinks
stuff like this happens all the time in his new digs; after all, people
might be coming down with the black death there.
It's not too difficult to excuse a plot hole here and there, but there
are enough holes in DEEP
IN THE DARKNESS to drain pasta. For example, who and what the
Isolates are is never really explained, all we know is that they isolate
the town from the outside world. Does this mean no one ever escapes? Kids
don't get to go to college or go on spring break? No family trips to Disneyland?
It's also never made clear why a periodic sacrifice of a near dead squirrel
keeps these cannibalistic creatures from taking a bite out of the good
folks of Ashborough (as well as the good folk in the neighboring counties which begs the question as to just how isolated the Isolates are) . The Isolates also seem to have telepathy, speak and understand English, have some human
DNA, and can do a whole slew of other neat tricks but they can't tend
to their own wounded! Thus, Michael has to serve as their doc in a box.
While the plot is unconvincing, the characters range from bland to lifeless.
Even the most intense emotional exchanges come off obtuse and can be measured
for intensity by the use of profanity (Hint - when
characters say fuck it's important). As Michael begins to realize
that he's knee deep in some weird shit he has this exchange with Phil,
his closest neighbor:
At the end of the path, Phil turned and yelled, "Michael, I've got some very sad news
for you. You're never gonna see your car again."
My heart leaped up into my throat, one powerful beat at a time. I wanted
to cry, and might have if it hadn't been for the sudden anger swallowing
'Fuck you, Phil. I thought you were a friend. You fucking used us, now
we're screwed like the rest of the poor bastards in this goddamned town.'
DEEP IN THE DARKNESS is rife with awkward passages and clunky prose. After watching a woman
die on his lawn, Michael says:
I sat there against the house for an indeterminate amount of time knowing very well that someone,
my family included, might nonchalantly stumble upon this horrific scene
- items brought in loving arms would undoubtedly drop to the ground.
I'm going to chalk up DEEP
IN THE DARKNESS as a victim of the sophomore slump, and look
forward to Michael Laimo's next offering. Laimo is still a fresh and exciting
voice and has the talent to write a kick ass horror novel.
IN THE DARKNESS is not it.
This one gets 2 book wyrms.
This review copyright 2004 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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