Horror Mystery Reviews

Darkness on the Edge of Town – Brian Keene

20 October 2018
Darkness on the Edge of Town Book Cover Darkness on the Edge of Town
Brian Keene

One morning the residents of Walden, Virginia, woke up to find the rest of the world gone. Just . . . gone. Surrounding their town was a wall of inky darkness, plummeting Walden into permanent night. Nothing can get in - not light, not people, not even electricity, radio, TV, internet, food, or water. And nothing can get out. No one who dared to penetrate the mysterious barrier has ever been seen again. Only their screams were heard. But for some, the darkness is not the worst of their fears. Driven mad by thirst, hunger, and perpetual night, the residents of Walden are ready to explode. The last few sane prisoners of this small town must prepare a final stand against their neighbors, themselves, and something even worse . . . something out there . . . in the darkness .

Left in the Dark

Brian Keene wonderfully portrays the rapid fall of civilisation, the sudden regression of humanity into primal creatures, and the danger that lurks in the darkness outside of town, and in the hearts of the characters. Once the story gets going, it delivers a continuous crescendo of new mysteries, questions and horror suspense…right up until the end, where unfortunately it is us the readers who are left in absolute darkness.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,

and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”
HP Lovecraft

The novel opens with the above quote from H.P. Lovecraft, and Brian Keene undoubtedly succeeds in weaponising fear of the unknown in Darkness on the Edge of Town, but there is a thin line between mystery and frustration.  Whilst many horror stories have come undone when the final secret is revealed, the epilogue here is incredibly disappointing for the opposite reason, be prepared for absolutely zero resolution or revelation.

The decision to not provide an ending or any kind of closure, was undoubtedly deliberate. Liberal artistic license perhaps to try and further put the reader in the shoes of the characters. However, after overcoming the initial hurdles and allowing yourself to be drawn into the lore and mythos, with fresh questions and implications layered on top of each other like a nightmarish Jenga puzzle…it’s remarkably underwhelming for it all to end with neither a bang nor a whisper.

In fact, considering how the final chapters were written you could only assume the last three words should have been ‘To be continued’, but alas this was seemingly it. No answers lie in the darkness.

The prologue is a difficult read also, in large part due to the somewhat annoying forced dialects and language used. Clearly trying to establish ‘real’ characters, the syntax and persona’s just felt forced, like a pensioner was trying to be down with the kids.

Many reviews for this title have mentioned the similar thematics or resonance with books such as Under The Dome, The Mist or Lord of the Flies. This is not to say the work is unoriginal, but rather a compliment to what the author is trying (and largely succeeding) to capture. It is worth a read for these reasons, for at times the novel reaches that level of quality, but it’s hard to look past the turbulent entry and almost non-existent exit.

Ultimately, horror or apocalypse fans will find enough to satiate their thirst, and the novel is forgivingly short, which helps to offset the lack of closure.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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