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Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Leisure Books Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780843960914
Date: 26 January 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In the twinkling of an eye, the bucolic town of Walden, Virginia becomes surrounded by a cold, impenetrable darkness. All communication with the rest of the world ceases to exist. Electricity, sunlight, rain and even the stars vanish as though they never existed. Robbie Higgins and his friends soon discover that the darkness is an ancient creature; it feeds on fear and poisons the minds of men, causing them to commit atrocious acts against one another. Their attempts to escape lead to death and destruction. Law and order break down in Walden. Life becomes Hell on Earth as citizens struggle to survive in the darkness of a nightmare from which no one can awake.

Because of its downbeat, open ending, Brian Keene's Darkness on the Edge of Town reminded me of those apocalyptic horror films that I loved to watch in the seventies and eighties. Remember such classics as The Omega Man where Charlton Heston lies dying in his water fountain, clutching a vial of blood containing the cure for saving mankind? Or Kingdom of the Spiders when William Shatner discovers that the marauding tarantulas have encased his entire town in their deadly webs? In Dogs, Linda Gray and the student body of a small town college are slaughtered by pet canines that become inexplicably vicious. There are countless other films, usually involving viruses and animals. This time, Brian Keene uses darkness as the villain. The unfortunate citizens of Walden find themselves hopelessly trapped between darkness and Hell.

If darkness is the antagonist, then Robbie Higgins must be the protagonist, though a very unlikely one. A pizza deliveryman for Giovanni's, the attractive young man curses like a sailor and enjoys smoking pot with his girlfriend, Christy. Though Robbie is rough around the edges, he has a kind heart as evidenced by his desire to help his friends and neighbors escape. Unfortunately, his best intentions lead to calamity. Eventually, he becomes the object of hatred for many of the citizens who've been driven insane by the darkness.

There is physical darkness, which is the absence of light. Most of us fear what creatures may hide within it. It is this fear that keeps us asleep at night until the light can dispel it. And there is spiritual darkness, which is the absence of moral values. In Keene's provocative novel, the darkness doesn't always stay on the edge of Walden. It also exists on the edge of the minds of its citizens. When law and order decay and modern conveniences disappear, the darkness seeps deeper into their minds, turning them into that which they have always feared: dangerous creatures. Keene is a master of exploiting our fears. Now, after the sun sets each evening, I'll wonder what horrors the darkness hides. We always take for granted that the sun will rise again. Well, Keene proves that there may come a time when that doesn't happen.

Let the reader be forewarned that Darkness on the Edge of Town is pure horror. Fast paced and very intriguing with a strong mystery element, this novel contains a tremendous amount of graphic violence, gore and expletives. Robbie, who is telling this story as if reading it from his journal, likes to use vulgar, street talk. He meets thugs who curse even more. The darkness brings out the worst in people; it ramps up their emotions; like the devil, it plants false ideas and images into their brains, compelling them to commit violent deeds. Also, there is a great deal of anti-Christian sentiments among Robbie and his associates. Bible verses are misconstrued. A main character, Anna, is depicted as a Bible quoting religious fanatic who leads a manhunt for Dez, a homeless man who is the only one in town who may know the origin of the darkness.

Darkness on the Edge of Town is highly recommended for fans of apocalyptic horror. It should be read as a companion novel with Damian Malfi's Snow where the small town of Woodson is terrorized by a diabolical presence that hides in the snow. Keene has written numerous best-selling horror novels based on mutants, zombies, and other monsters. They include Urban Gothic, Castaways, Terminal, Ghost Walk, Dark Hollow, Dead Sea, Ghoul, The Conqueror Worms, City of the Dead and The Rising.

Along with Darkness on the Edge of Town, Leisure Books has generously included the first chapter of Brian Keene's next horror novel, A Gathering of Crows. It is scheduled to be published in August of 2010. Ancient creatures with a human-like appearance descend on the small, isolated town of Brinkley Springs, West Virginia. They are prepared to slaughter the residents for food as they did the colonists of Roanoke, North Carolina in 1590. Only an ex-soldier, twenty-four-year-old Donny Novak, stands in their way. This novel promises to be as gory and horrifying as Keene’s previous ones.

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