It could be argued that humans are often victims of their own imaginations – medieval instruments of torture, nuclear weapons, the Police Academy movies – are all shocking in their own ways. Fear of the dark is essentially being afraid of what might be there; we are able to project all kinds of horrors onto the blank canvas of impenetrable shadow. And that seems to be exactly what Joe M Solomon has done in his debut novel.
The Darkness is a horror story about a ‘cleansing’ of the human race by an evil force that inhabits the absence of light. Anyone who is touched by it will suffer instantaneous pain as if severely burned or splashed with acid – blackened skin, eviscerated flesh e.t.c. Overall you need to get out of the shadows swiftly or it will be lights out permanently. Although this terror is a worldwide affliction that arrives suddenly one night and reduces the global population drastically, the story focuses on one area – Giger, Texas, which, adding insult to injury, is also in the grip of a hurricane.
The author projects a somewhat dystopian view of humanity, rapists, abusers, bigots, murders and misogynists abound, the world, it seems, is in need of a cleansing so it can start anew with or without humans. We follow the plight of loosely connected characters many don’t last long but a few find sufficient courage and nous to find ways to survive. Mostly this means having access to enough light to banish the darkness. The hurricane causes considerable flooding and power outages to make life even more difficult. Somehow a few do manage to find ways to keep themselves alive and even to learn a little about what The Darkness is – suggesting a sequel may well be in the offing.
Joe M Solomon certainly knows how to turn the gore and gruesomeness all the way up to 11 but I wasn’t entirely convinced by this book. It’s audience target is most likely to be late teens and twenty-year-olds and there is plenty of gratuitous sex and violence to keep them interested and there are times when the narrative becomes gripping. However, reading it was quite similar to being repeatedly bashed around the head – initially it is makes an impact but there comes a point that you are so dazed that you stop caring. There is simply too much death and gore. Every time a new character is introduced you expect them to die in, what becomes, the usual grisly fashion. It is a surprise when a few characters hang around long enough for you to learn who they are and this is when the book is better as you start to care (a little) about whether they survive or not.