Author: Brian Keene
What would you do if you woke up one morning and it was still dark? What would you do if there was no sun, no stars, no sky, just an all pervading, limitless night that keeps lasting and lasting? What would you do if you were stranded in a small town, cut off, and you didn’t even know if the rest of the world existed anymore?
For Robbie and his girlfriend Christie, these what-ifs are a reality. They woke up to no sun, no birds, just a small, panicked town in Virginia and some strange runes on the outskirts of town, near the shimmering, talking blackness. At first, people try to hold it together. To plan. To send expeditions into the blackness. To keep trying the dead phones and sending signals, but soon everything devolves into a primal wasteland. Only one old homeless man seems to understand what is going on. But he’s crazy . . . right?
The Darkness on the Ede of Town is an atmospheric chiller. It’s calmer than some of Keene’s other works, although just as messed up. Here it is less the unseen monster that is the terror, but the depravity of humanity, so easily and quickly brought to chaos and murder. Of course, something in that darkness is stoking the fires, is pushing into the minds and hearts of the remaining people. But are they really all that unwilling or is the blackness just calling to a baseness that was already there?
Despite the freaky concept, this story is more of a sleeper. If you are looking for a definitive end, you won’t get it. This is more a slice of an unknowable nightmare which ends on a precipice. You know where it will probably go – this is a hopeless world after all. But still, the necessary finality of any story is missing. Instead, we get a milieu of quite, pre-apocalypse moments as the characters slowly go mad, begin to act against each other, and prod at that darkness, forever waiting on the edge of town.
Now you do get some answers about that darkness through the unlikely homeless man. Keene uses a lot of Biblical language, which builds the sense of calamity and the seriousness of what the characters are facing, but if you are hoping for a Christian (or Christian friendly) interpretation, you’re coming to the wrong place. I do wish authors would cease the God-bashing, but in the horror genre that’s hardly unusual, and since this strange world that has collapsed on itself now diverges so much from our own, it is at least easy to relegate the sacrilege to fiction.
Overall, Darkness on the Edge of Town, despite its incomplete feeling, is a rather good and engaging read. Keene may fail to deliver a finale pretty consistently, but he always creates a mood and delivers a unique, palpable concept. If only there had been some sort of real conclusion instead of a “this moment in time” glimpse.
– Frances Carden
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