Thursday, January 26, 2017

In Darkness Waiting by John Shirley

In Darkness Waiting
by John Shirley
2013 Night Shade Books
Originally 1988 Oynx

A human potential est guru type, seeking to free the human ego, unleashed Grey Pilots inhabiting the brains of certain individuals.  These Pilots burst out of exploding eyeballs and manifest as giant flies with human faces, spreading murderous sociopathy like a plague.

Not as silly as it sounds.  I don't know why it took me so long to read Shirley, but I definitely intend on catching up.  He makes it just hallucinogenic enough to work, walking that tightrope between exposition and just letting the crazy happen.  If anything he explains a little too much for my taste, but he doesn't completely spell out other connections, like the otherworldly Lord of Dark Corners.

Not an easy task, given that the premise is part It Conquered the World and part The Tingler.  Shirley's mood-setting helps, along with multiple scenes of random violence.  In a way, it manifests as a thinking-man's version of the Devil series, with victims having intrusive thoughts of violence before committing cold-blooded murder.  A favorite scene of mine had some infected children and an elderly woman in a wheelchair at a roadside snake farm.  By the end, we're literally knee deep in blood and feces.

There were several points where the plot threatened to dip into cliche, but Shirley resisted temptation. In particular, I'm proud of him for having several Native American characters and not have a "my people have a name for this creature" scene.

Shirley seems like a cool cat, and his writing has lived up to this vibe so far.

The 2013 version has some of the usual "updating", though the mention of "cell phones" and Sum 41 were outdated even then.  I have to wonder if these small press publishers have a macro that inserts "I can't get a connection on my phone" at certain plot points.

Currently set at "we'll sell ebooks but we don't want anyone to buy them" prices by Simon and Schuster - I grabbed it off Hoopla through my library.

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