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Darkness Falling by Peter Crowther

It was a typical all-American backwater – until the night the monsters came.

When four employees of KMRT Radio investigate an unearthly light that cuts off communication with the outside world, they discover that something has taken the place of their friends and fellow townfolk, and imbued them with malign intentions. Little do they know, the phenomenon is not unique to the town of Jesman’s Bend…

Last year when I visited FantasyCon 2010 in Nottingham, I picked up a short story collection called Zombie Apocalypse. I loved all the tales included, undead shufflers being a particular favourite of mine, but especially enjoyed the entry written by Peter Crowther. I was surprised by how much his writing put me in mind of Stephen King’s early work. Both authors seem equally blessed with the same gift of being able to convey a wealth of insight into their characters in a few scant chapters. Since then, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to read something else by him. When I heard that Angry Robot were re-releasing Forever Twilight as a trilogy (previously released as a duology in 2002, called Darkness Darkness), this sounded like the perfect place to expand my knowledge of Mr Crowther’s work.

Book one in the trilogy, Darkness Falling, has the characters based in a local radio station, and though their narrative was interesting, I was more engrossed with another couple of people the book follows. Firstly, there is sociopathic killer Virgil Banders. Happily going about his horrific hobby of mummifying his victims he wakes from sleep to learn the vast majority of people have disappeared. When they return Virgil discovers he is no longer top of the psychopathic food chain. The reader is immediately posed the question what would a killer do when all the rules have changed? Not a character that you are going to necessarily empathize with but engrossing none the less.

The other character that caught my attention is at the complete opposite end of spectrum, a total innocent, a little girl called Angel Wurst. She is left behind when her parents disappear and Crowther dangles just enough hints throughout this first book to suggest that her journey will be key to the whole story. Angel appears to have some sort of sixth sense and she can see through Virgil’s attempts to ingratiate himself into the main group of survivors.

Darkness Falling has a wonderful B-Movie-esque feel about it. I wouldn’t dream of ruining the story, but anyone who has ever marveled at the cold war paranoia exhibited in the likes of Invasion of The Body Snatchers will feel right at home here. There are also some referential nods to television shows like The Twilight Zone and The Invaders, which are guaranteed to raise a smile. The reason(s) behind the sudden global shift in humanity is never fully explained so this sets things up nicely for the next novel in the trilogy. I am certainly keen to find out what happens to the disparate group of survivors.

I was lucky enough to attend an event early this year and I got to hear Peter Crowther perform a reading taken from Darkness Falling. I think it was fair to say that the entire audience was totally entranced. This is the mark of a master storyteller; to be able to write something that resonates with many different people and leave them all hungry for more.

As a final thought, I can’t write a review of this novel without making mention of the evocative cover art by Vincent Chong. He created a marvelously creepy cover for Gary McMahon’s The Concrete Grove and he has done so again here. The large group of people wearing dark glasses in the dead of night reminded me of the John Carpenter classic They Live. To paraphrase Rowdy Roddy Piper  “I have come here to chew bubblegum and read Darkness Falling…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Darkness Falling: Forever Twilight Book One is launched today at Fantasycon 2011 by Angry Robot and will be on general release from 6th October 2011.

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