Some books aren’t destined to be loved, I don’t think, whereas their authors might be. Stephen King comes to mind as an example. I suspect Mike Dellosso, author of Darkness Follows, might also fall into this category.
The Story. Sam Travis is recovering from a brain injury — except he feels as if he’s not. He has begun to hear things, like sounds of battle, the kind that would have come from the Battle of Gettysberg that took place not far from his home. He’s also started seeing things, or more accurately, a person — his dead brother. The capper is, he’s starting to do things he doesn’t remember, specifically journaling as if he is Captain Samuel Whiting, a member of the US military during the Civil War.
Fearing for his sanity, Sam does not reveal what he’s experiencing to his wife or his little girl, Eva, though both are concerned for him and the changes they see. A gulf begins to grow between them, and Sam finds himself more and more drawn into what he perceives to be an inevitable darkness that propels him toward unspeakable actions.
Strengths. The story is well-written and compelling. The prose is not lyrical but it is certainly above average. Scenes are vivid, action properly motivated, characters painted as individuals, each with his or her own unique story. The interaction between Sam and his daughter and between Sam and his wife was so natural which made the progression toward estrangement more and more painful.
The tension was palpable, and the suspense proved to be that “compelling” element.
The theme of love as the redeeming factor in a person’s life was clear — not just love in a generic way, but Jesus’s love.
Weaknesses. I had one minor issue that proved to be major for me. At one point the antagonist stalks his target, described to have brown hair. Because the character the reader would assume to be the target of a kidnapping had blond hair, I surmised that someone else was the actual target. Not so. Apparently it was an editing glitch. I admit I was disappointed because I thought that could have taken the story in an interesting direction.
The larger issue, however, was that some of the end didn’t seem earned. The explanation of brainwashing and neo-Nazi involvement was from out of the blue. The subconscious journal writing and the appearance of a message written in grass (when Sam was fully conscious and absent from the location) was never adequately explained. Nor was the inciting incident — the Civil War sounds and the shattered window that started him on his journey toward darkness.
Surprisingly, the puzzle pieces not quite fitting didn’t deter from the story. Only as I thought about it after finishing was I aware of the questions the story left a little scrambled.
Recommendation. This one is no yawner. The pages flew by, and if I enjoyed horror, I have no doubt that I would have discovered a new favorite author. Mike writes well!
That being said, this is horror. Actual ugly horror with horrific things happening. This is a book that earns the word Darkness in the title, and anyone picking it up should realize they are not getting a sanitized version of horror.
I highly recommend Darkness Follows to anyone interested in horror and particular to anyone who wants to see what Christian horror looks like. To anyone who doesn’t care for horror, stay away from this one.
This review originally appeared at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.