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”
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.