CSFF Blog Tour – Darkness Follows, Day 3

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 the CSFF Blog Tour June feature, Darkness Follows, might also fall into this category.

Of course, this idea that authors can be loved even if their books aren’t, can be argued, depending on why a particular reader loves a book. For me, being appalled pretty much eliminates a novel from the “I love it” category. Others may well disagree.

All this to say, I am happy I read a Mike Dellosso novel. I’d happily recommend him to anyone who wants to read horror. At the same time, I won’t be reading another one of his.

I’ve said from time to time that I enjoy reading most genres, but not suspense or horror. And yet I’ve read some suspense and liked it, some Christian supernatural suspense and liked it. However, in reading reviews of those books, I discovered that readers who genuinely enjoy the suspense or horror genres thought the books I liked were too tame.

I don’t think any horror fan would find Darkness Follows tame.

Which is why I won’t read any more Dellosso novels. He’s too good. By that I mean, the story was the kind that comes alive. The characters seemed like real people, the growing darkness a real threat, the danger a tragedy waiting to happen. I hated it — in the same way that I hate roller coasters. Other people find the adrenaline rush thrilling, I find it horrific.

All that by way of introduction to my review. 😉

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 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.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

18 Comments

  1. Great review. I’m not a horror reader. I hate horror movies.

    Long ago—thirty-four years ago—I read Suffer the Children, by John Saul. I swore I’d never read another horror book. I never have. Ugh, I can still remember how freaked out I was by it.

    I’m very interested in Christian, horror, though. If I remember correctly, in Saul’s book there was not anything redemptive about it. I wonder if I’d like horror better if there was an ending that spoke of hope and healing.

    What do you think? Should I try this book? Does it end well? And by that I mean are the characters I am invested in victorious and on their way to better days?

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  2. Your review makes me glad I didn’t request this novel! Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti are about as dark as my reading gets.

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  3. I took the radio talk show transcripts of the anonymous caller and her explanation with a grain of salt. I thought that would be a good “cover” story for those not wanting to expose a supernatural reason. Not sure if that is what Mike intended in his writing, but that is what I chose to think :).

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  4. Interestingly, I just reviewed another Dellosso novel (Scream), which was rather light on any real ‘horror’. But then, I read Stephen King at bedtime, so you may disagree 🙂

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  5. Becky, thanks for you honest and thorough review . . . I think. (Kidding!) Seriously, I appreciate your comments and really appreciate you sticking with the story even though it isn’t something you’d usually read. That actually means a lot.

    And Sally, yes, you should try it, though you may want to start with my book Scream. It’s a bit tamer. As for Darkness Follows, I think you’ll be happy with the ending 🙂

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  6. I also recommend Scream because it isn’t “horrific”–it’s my favorite of Mike’s. I’ve read them all. “Horror” means such different things to people. Mike also makes sure redemption and the distinct contrast of dark to light occur in his books.

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  7. Heheh, Mike, I was a little afraid of what you’d think. I put you in the same category (though different genre) as Brandilyn Collins. What a delightful woman, and an excellent writing instructor. I loved her blog and read a good number of her books. But there came the day when her skill pushed her past the sanitized version of suspense. It was too real for me to handle — I just hate being scared.

    So, that’s the way I felt about Darkness Follows.

    Katie, I’m planning to opt myself out whenever we do another horror. These last few months have done me in!

    Steve, I haven’t read Scream, but there’s nothing tame about Mike’s latest. If you like the hard core horror, I think you won’t be disappointed in this one.

    Sally, it does end well, as you describe it. The end was not my problem! 😮

    Nicole, you continue to surprise me. Tell me again why you like suspense and horror, romance and contemporary, but not science fiction and fantasy? 😉

    Beckie, interesting that you thought that denouement chapter contained material not to be believed. I figured they hadn’t included the supernatural explanation, but I was still believing what was given.

    Thanks, all, for the feedback.

    Becky

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  8. This post just makes me want to read the book even more. I hate horror movies, but I absolutely adore reading over the top scary books (the quality being compared to Brandilyn is another plus–she’s on my top 5 best ever list and I will never miss one of her books)

    Mike teaches creative writing at my alma matter, and I am so tempted to go back just so I could take his class.

    http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com

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  9. Yeah, I’m with you Becky. I don’t do scary (or roller coasters either). I had to stop reading Mike Duran’s Resurrection when I found myself having nightmares about Mr. Cellophane. Its not what I see or read, its what my imagination does with it afterward. Its wayyyy to active! Good for writing fantasy, bad for reading horror 🙂

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  10. Ha, Becky! I imagine your question was rhetorical, but I’ll answer it anyway. Thrillers, suspense, mysteries, and non-secular horror require skills I wish I had. The ability to keep a harried pace, provide thrills, and good twists when done well capture that element that keeps the pages turning and the mind on guard.

    Romance (which I rarely read anymore for reasons which I won’t bore you with) which I write in my love stories captures my heart and soul–it’s how I’m wired. And contemporary keeps me in the here and now where I need to be. Science Fiction I will read occasionally–I read the Mars Hill Trilogy by Austin Boyd, Jeff Outerbridge’s Eternity Falls, and Jessica Thomas’ yet to be published Martyred, all of which I truly enjoyed. Fantasy: no. I rarely watched cartoons, not a big fan of animation, thought LOTR got boring, never read the books or The Chronicles of Narnia. Yikes! I can feel the tomatoes pelting me as I write. Just don’t do the made up places, creatures, etc. Sorry. ;/

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  11. Splat! Consider yourself tomatoed, Nicole, for your sins against Middle Earth and Narnia.

    🙂

    Mike, I’ll check out Scream.

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  12. A couple more thoughts as we wrap this up:

    Becky, you said: “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 the CSFF Blog Tour June feature, Darkness Follows, might also fall into this category.” Thank you. That’s quite a testimony to the fearsome loyalty of my readers (like King’s). Many have been with me since the beginning when I was preparing for the release of my first book and was diagnosed with cancer and I think they feel a certain bond with me because of that.

    Katie, you said Ted Dekker is about as dark as you get. I’d venture to say his books are a lot darker than any of mine, the violence more in-your-face. Honestly, I’m surprised by all the talk of how dark the book is when I feel it’s quite tame compared to some other popular thriller writers (Dekker being one). If you can take Dekker’s brand of darkness, be assured you can handle mine. Try it and let me know what you think. If I’m wrong and you sincerely think it’s darker than any of Dekker’s stuff, contact me and I’ll refund your money. Seriously.

    Mike

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  13. Wow, Mike, I didn’t know Dekker books had turned so dark. I only read one of his — not because I found it dark. It just wasn’t my taste. Some of Peretti is dark. I had one friend who stopped reading him for that reason.

    Nichole, since you haven’t read some of the classic fantasies, you make me think you don’t read the genre because of what you think it might be rather than what it is. Why don’t you take a fantasy challenge sort of like Mike Duran did. Ask your readers to give you the title of the One fantasy book you ought to read, then read it and give it your usual thorough critique. I’d love to see what you think after having read a good fantasy.

    Mind you, I did this with a friend here in SoCal. Got her to read The Hobbit I believe it was. Maybe The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe too. She hated them. 😆 So, no, not everyone will like the genre. But almost everyone. 😀

    Becky

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  14. Becky, I appreciate your efforts. I do. My answer: No. Sorry. Just don’t see me taking the time to do it with so many other contemporary TBRs. It’s a fair challenge but if it makes you feel any better I feel the same way about Amish (and the like) novels. Nope. Yikes! Now the bonnet-book readers are swishing their dainty little hair-coverings at me. Look out!

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  15. I just have such a hard time believing this, Nicole. 😆 Are you telling me you didn’t like the movie Princess Bride or Ever After? How about Beauty and the Beast? Or Tangled? Uh-ah. I thought every great romantic loved great fantasy.

    But do me one favor before we let this die. Go over to Spec Faith and read Chawna Schroeder’s guest post for today. That explains better than I ever could why I write fantasy.

    Becky

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  16. Never saw The Princess Bride, no desire to. Or any of the others you mentioned. I did love Monsters, Inc., but I cried at the end. Yeah, I did. And Toy Story 2.

    Dragging my feet over to read what Chawna has to say JUST FOR YOU, Becky. But I don’t question why you write it. You’ve explained it here before. I want you to write your passion. Forget about me! I’m just one person. Not your target audience.

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  17. Pssst! Nicole! Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t get fantasy either…

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  18. [It’ll be our secret, UKSteve. ;)]

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