Book Review: The Burning Dark (Mania.com)

By:Chuck Francisco
Review Date: Thursday, March 20, 2014
Source: Mania.com

The Burning Dark author Adam Christopher does something profoundly dangerous to open his new novel: he unveils a potentially unreliable narrator. I say dangerous because the unreliable narrator is like fire, a wondrous tool when wielded correctly, yet horribly disastrous when inexpertly handled. Here he swings a firebrand better than Aragorn at Weathertop, devising a seriously spooky psychological Scifi ghost story, taut with fine-line suspense, unsettling plot twists, and several shocking reveals. This is the kind of story M.Night Shyamalan used to wow audiences with, and it would shock me greatly if The Burning Dark isn't optioned into a film at some point.

After leading his fleet to an amazing victory over the alien spider menace, thus saving an entire planet, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland been assigned one last post as he retires from active service; he is to oversee the dismantling of a science space station orbiting a rare purple star. This star's radiation is causing many malfunctions aboard the station, exacerbating the frustrations of the remaining skeleton crew, which in turn is worsening their hatred of Cleveland (whom they believe lied about his war record). With station command turning a blind eye to assaults upon him, Cleveland tries to combat the isolation thrust upon him by building an antique subspace radio. But as the static hiss of unknown space is punctuated by the screams of a woman across the expanse time, the Captain must delve into mysteries which could lead him to horror beyond human comprehension. 

Playing upon mankind's instinctual fear of the unseen, Adam Christopher populates every deep shadow with the promise of menace, combining the concepts of Lovecraft (the unfathomable other) with the techniques of Hitchcock (leave the worst bits to imagination). The mystery he crafts is successful in leaving the reader without a comfortable port of call in the form of a protagonist. While this initially may cause some uncertainty on the reader's part, it works completely in the narrative's favor.

For fans of hard sciences fiction, The Burning Dark should scratch that persistent technolust itch. Being set almost one thousand years in the future affords Christopher great opportunities to stretch the boundaries of innovation, and he takes it in a naturalistic direction with replacement limbs controlled via mind psionic fields, faster than light, space folding engines, and Mass Effect-like holographic interfaces. When all is said and done, readers are in for a scifi horror tale in the vein of Solaris or Event Horizon. If any of this has piqued your interest then be sure to pick up The Burning Dark next week. 

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher will be available on March 25th from Tor Publishing as a Tor Hardcover for $25.99.

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.



Mania Grade: B+
Author: Adam Christopher
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Book Genre: Scifi/Horror
Format: Hardcover
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