Thursday, 6 January 2011

Frightfest review: The Dark

To get a good review is something I still can't get used to. To get one from people who seriously know their horror? It's like my peers, those I seriously respect and look up to, have turned round and said, "You know what, Dave? Nice one!"

So here's the review from Frightfest ( of The Dark. And, even if I do say so myself, it's a total blinder! They even gave it four our of five stars! Crikey! I even get compared to Lucio Fulci, and the movie The Beyond! I simply cannot express how happy that makes me feel. And, indeed, utterly astonished and shocked...



THE DARK is the second installment in a horror trilogy aimed at young adult readers. First installment THE DEAD was a rollicking tale although one that was over rather too quickly. With the second book author David Gatward has really hit his stride, opening up the macabre world he has created and producing a more assured, expansive and better-paced adventure.

Opening at the previous book’s close our hero Lazarus Stone crosses the veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead in search of his lost father. Along for the ride is Lazarus’ horror obsessed school friend Craig, who acts as point of view for the reader and a much needed comic foil. Lazarus has discovered that he is destined to act as the Dead’s Keeper policing the borders of the purgatorial realm and our world ensuring that none of its desiccated inhabitants escape to possess the living. However he’s not happy about this, especially having died twice in the previous installment!

Lazarus’ quest in THE DARK takes sinister and violent turns, leading to a road trip with an alcoholic angel. Lazarus and Co must set off in search of Abadon, fabled scourge of the dead. Abadon is the key to preventing the worlds of the living and the dead from colliding with apocalyptic consequences. Abadon is a great character with a terrifying and grisly history that I will leave it to you to discover.

THE DARK improves upon the solid foundation laid by THE DEAD in almost every way, the sometimes clunky dialogue of the previous installment is much improved, characters are deeper and Gatward paces his plot well, leading to an satisfying climax and setting up the final installment. The book is pleasingly gruesome without being too gross for younger readers, and will continue to delight junior horror fans as well as satisfying those closer to middle age.

Gartward’s world of flayed demons and repurposed religious imagery is clearly reminiscent of early Clive Barker, but there are also nods to Italian splatter legend Lucio Fulci. Fulci’s film THE BEYOND seems to have influenced Gatward’s imagination in realising the grim realm of the dead and its rotting and malevolent inhabitants on the page. How often can you legitimately raise the specter of Fulci (a man with three entries on the official DPP video nasties list) when reviewing a book aimed at younger readers? For that alone Gartward deserves some kudos.

THE DARK continues Gartward’s ripping yarn and wets the appetite for the third and final installment THE DAMNED due in April 2011.