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.

CSFF Blog Tour – Darkness Follows, Day 2


I find it interesting that this month’s CSFF feature, Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso (Realms), brought to my mind a tough question, one that is sensitive by nature and often isn’t discussed. Interesting because the last two Realms books, The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell and The Resurrection by Mike Duran had similar effects.

In Darkness Follows, the issue is a little convoluted. I’m referring to mental disorders/demon oppression or possession. I separated the two with a slash simply because those who believe in demon oppression and possession struggle knowing where mental disorders leave off and demon activity takes over.

Of course there was a period of time when the common understanding of all mental disorders related to demonic spiritual forces. Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction: in western culture few people give credence to demon possession, and mental disorders are understood as biological issues or perhaps psychological ones, but never spiritual.

In Darkness Follows Mike Dellosso seems to be exploring both mental disorders and spiritual activity simultaneously. In his story it is nearly impossible to know where one stops and the other starts.

For clarification, there is also clear, tangible angelic spiritual activity. It’s the dark that is left more murky and tangled with the physical.

* * * Spoiler Alert Warning: of necessity some spoilers may be included in this discussion. * * *

First the clear physical exploration of mental disorder. One of the minor characters was experiencing early signs of Alzheimer’s. The protagonist was recovering from a closed brain injury due to a twenty-foot fall. His brother had suffered from an undiagnosed mental disorder manifesting as escalating violence. The antagonist suffered the effects of brain altering experimentation. The protagonist’s father, also a minor character, exhibited signs of confusion and memory loss — perhaps the result of an earlier injury.

Coupled with these physical or “explained” mental disorders was the “darkness” that inhabited the original journal writer, Samuel Whiting (a 19th century Civil War officer who seemed to be “channeling” his thoughts to the protagonist who wrote them down), and also the protagonist, Sam Travis (who at one point tries to commit suicide).

Several actions sprang from this darkness — actions paralleled by demon possession recorded in Scripture: violence against others, violence against self, isolation from other people.

      * * * End Spoiler Alert * * *

So the questions are these: where does mental illness end and demon activity begin? and can a Christian be demon possessed?

The second question is actually something that I think has a Biblical answer. No, Christians cannot be demon possessed. Second Cor. 6:14, in a different context, indicates there is no partnership between light and dark. First John 1:6 says we’re lying if we say we have fellowship with God and “yet walk in darkness.” First John 5:18 says of one born of God, “the evil one does not touch him.”

Jesus, of course, made a case for the impossibility of someone casting out demons by the power of the devil. By implication, I conclude that God has power over demons, not the reverse. The logical conclusion, then, is that the Holy Spirit in a person’s life does not “share,” nor will He be cowered into a corner while a legion takes over.

But can darkness influence a Christian — demonic darkness? I don’t know how far Satan or his forces can go. I do know I Peter 5:8-9 says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” Because this passage ties in with brethren suffering in the world, it seems to me that Satan may have power over our circumstances, much the way Joseph’s brothers had power over his circumstances. In the end, what they meant for evil, God meant for good.

Nevertheless, we are to resist. This action, I take to be spiritual, in which we utilize the armor of God — the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, the shoes of the gospel of peace.

As to the first question — where does a mental disorder stop and demon activity begin … well, that’s one I’d like someone else to answer for me.

I know there will be lots (maybe most) taking the humanistic view that there are only biological causes for mental disorders. I just don’t see why a spiritual force, if it has any power at all, couldn’t have an effect on someone’s brain. In other words, scientists are perfectly right to say this chemical imbalance has that affect on a person. But why couldn’t the root of the chemical imbalance be in the spiritual activity of a demon?

I suppose in the end, we can’t know. One thing is clear, however: we are to resist the devil and when we do, he will flee. We are to draw near to God, and He will draw near to us.

Christ resisted all the temptations Satan threw at Him over a period of forty days — right after His baptism. Interesting how a spiritual high point can be followed by such an intense spiritual attack. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.

CSFF Blog Tour – Darkness Follows


Author Mike Dellosso

There’s just something about starting a book that lets you know almost at once whether or not you’re in the hands of a competent storyteller or not. When I discover that I am, I immediately relax and let the story take over.

Without a doubt, Mike Dellosso, author of this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature Darkness Follows is the kind of storyteller that lets me know I’m in good hands. His command of the scene, his visual imagery created through action, his use of similes that not only describe but set the mood — all this and more helps me trust that the author knows what he’s doing.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two, and you’ll see what I mean:

Molly was down the steps in no time, slippered feet scuffing the hardwood like fine-grit sandpaper. Her hair was wildly out of place, pushed to one side and matted like steel wool, and pillow crease lines marked her left cheek. Her eyes were wide and bleary, her jaw slack.

“Wha-what happened?” The panic in her voice sent spidery legs down Sam’s back.

She stood at the bottom of the steps in her blue flannel pajamas, palms turned up, expecting an answer. But Sam didn’t have one. He had no idea what had happened. He knew the window had exploded — the glass on the living room floor, glimmering like diamonds in the light, testified to that — but the gunshot …

Was it real? Was it his mind playing war games with him?

He looked at Molly. “I, uh, I’m …” He glanced at the floor then back at her. His damaged brain wouldn’t shift into gear.

She took three steps forward, cautiously, as though creeping through a haunted house and expecting a mischievous teenager in a monster mask to jump from he next corner. She looked into the living room, and her hand went to her mouth. “Sam, what happened? The window.”

“Mommy?”

It was Eva, standing at the top of the stairs.

Sam was still frozen, his mind a block of ice, unable to make sense of anything hat had transpired in the last fifteen minutes.

Molly spun around. “Eva, stay there, baby. Don’t come down.”

“What happened? Did something break?” She was barefoot in her Dora jammies, clutching her worn-out stuffed dog in her arms. Max. There was no fear in her eyes, only questions.

“Yes, baby,” Molly said. She was in take-charge mode, and Sam knew when she had that look it was best to let her do her thing. “The window broke, that’s all. Nothing to worry about. Just stay there, OK? There’s glass all over the floor.”

Molly looked at Sam again. “What happened? Why’s the front door open? How did the window break?”

Too many questions.

Take some time now to read the buzz around the blog tour about Darkness Follows and Mike Dellosso.

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