With the world growing darker (politically and in season), fires burning, waters flooding... I ought to look for something light to read, but I end up haunted by dark matter and enjoying the sense that perhaps we can learn, if not directly from the past then possibly from its fictional recreation. So here I am enjoying Alice in Sinland, Killing the Devil, following Stainer through a collegetown summer of drugs, watching Ruined Wings try to fly, Missing Presumed and Accountable to None. Dark matter indeed, but some of it's hauntingly evocative, literarily beautiful, and gripping to read. And some of it's just dark. Here are some book reviews anyway. Enjoy complex four-star coffee with the more complex reads, and dark five-stars for the darkest ones.
Alice in Sinland by Antara Mann is an oddly surprising dark read. An up-and-coming lawyer is asked, "What do you want?" and realizes she always wanted to be a star. Down the rabbit-hole of modern-day stardom she goes, where dog eats dog, creativity is compromised in the cause of getting known, success is illusion, and everything's evocatively real. Except there's a message here too, part parable, part life, and it's really rather a cool, compelling read. Enjoy with some complex four-star coffee and reserve judgment till you see where it's going.
Killing the Devil by Paul Michael Peters winds a short story collection around the fate of a man who decides to, quite literally, kill the devil. Freewill, temptation, right and wrong... all are explored in a collection that cleverly illustrate that philosophical debate on the necessity of evil. Thought-provoking, blending parable and reality... enjoy some four-star coffee while you read and think.
Stainer: a novel of the “Me Decade” by Iolanthe Woulff is brutally real in its depiction of a young man falling for the temptations of drink, drugs and sex. But a thread of light runs through the novel, keeping reader convinced the ending will be worthwhile (which it is). So... dark, but positive. Literary I think. And a haunting, enthralling and complex read. Enjoy with some complex four-star coffee.
Ruined Wings by Ashley Fontainne explores the drug scene too as a runner with a brilliant future falls to the temptation and solace of addiction. Bad things happen to good people, and actions have consequences. But some actions can save, with the aid of faith, and Ruined Wings is a novel where faith, while prominent, doesn't overwhelm the story or the message. A good read to go with some complex four-star coffee.
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner might be a mystery or a police procedural, it might be literary (I think it is), but most of all it's a dark look at the divides between rich and poor, powerful and weak, educated and unlearned. Set in Cambridgeshire, blending politics, police procedural and social commentary, it's filled with hauntingly real characters, desperate situations, and a thread of odd hope that lifts it and keeps the reader engaged. Drink some complex four-star coffee and expect a long, slow, rewarding read.
Accountable to none, also by Ashley Fontainne, is a very different read. Slow, short, dark, and angry, it's the first in a collection, but the story's sufficiently complete at the end for it to stand alone. This is one to read with a strong small cup of dark five-star coffee. A truly bumpy ride.
For young adults, there's A Life of Death by Weston Kincade, a dark tale of a young boy abused by his stepfather and learning he has a truly remarkable skill, if only he can live long enough to use it. The story is heavy and dark, but the paranormal aspects draw the reader in--at least, they draw me in; maybe the dark heavy descriptions draw in reluctant readers at school. Enjoy with a dark five-star coffee and share with your reluctant reader guy.
Finally, one more dark tale, The Warrior by Ty Patterson. It's a short, exciting thrill ride about a man with a mission, to avenge deaths in the Congo, to kill those responsible, to live out his rage... so definitely dark, and a strange introduction to a series. It's a fast exciting read, from jungle to marble halls, best enjoyed with a short five-star dark coffee.