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David N. Alderman is an indie author of two speculative fiction series: Black Earth and Expired Reality. He is also the founder of The Crossover Alliance (www.thecrossoveralliance.com), and he participates in National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) each year. When he's not writing or spending time with family, you can find David racking up his achievement score on his Xbox 360, questing in Guild Wars 2, or killing opponents in a game of Half Life 2: Deathmatch on Steam.
on July 25, 2012 :
The third book of the Black Earth series really starts to advance the action. The world is crumbling with only certain areas that are even able to see the sun anymore, there are lighthouses that shoot beams that cause violent insanity, and the President of the US has implemented a plan to give herself power on a global scale. I really enjoyed this chapter of the series as there are certain elements that are beginning to get an explanation, such some background on the man in red who is holding Daisy while she waits for her execution. The christian theme is also becoming a bit more pronounced as the story develops. That is not to say that this is what you would normally consider to be a religious story, but the relationship that some of the characters are developing with God is becoming more apparent. There is a lot of violence and other adult situations that may turn some readers away, but the underlying message of faith is still pretty apparent to those willing to read.
The story takes place following the characters that have been introduced in the first two books, but they have separated for the most part leading to a fair amount of scene jumping. This honestly had me a bit confused at first since it has been a while since I read either of the first two books in the series. I did pick up everything pretty quickly once I started to get pulled into the story though. The flow of the book was excellent and had me locked into the story after the introductory getting my bearings. Nathan is still a decent guy, who has some character flaws, but he is easy to respect. Daisy is a tragic figure being held for execution for refusing to bow to the presidential mandates and being used as an example. Cyn is still a bit of a mystery as her story has seemed to have a few different possibilities through the series and a pretty big question mark about her is left open in this book. Heather is also a character I still have some questions about and hope to see a bit more about her in the next book of the series.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on July 25, 2012 :
Summary: As the Earth continues to fall into destruction the young Nathan Pierce and his allies race to rescue his sister Daisy from her immanent public execution. The president of what’s left of the United States is grabbing all the power she can, as the malevolent alien force Legion, along with their demonic allies, continue to transform the Earth into a violent, dark and frigid world.
Review: The saga of Black Earth continues on in the third and penultimate in the series, Dark Masquerade. Like the previous novels, Alderman has several story arcs that run alongside each other. Most of the characters in these storylines cross paths at some points, while other characters seem to be waiting to meet until the final story in the saga. Whereas many books that attempt this sort of divided attention have a difficult time maintaining either focus or interest in the story, Dark Masquerade (and indeed the entire series so far) does not. Alderman is very skilled at creating unique and engaging storylines through the world of his stories. The reader has no problems keeping these storylines and character separated, while keeping the overall story moving forward. This book was a little slow in the beginning, but picks up and explodes after the first few chapters.
The characters of Dark Masquerade are equally engaging, and Alderman gives us a great variety of believable and relatable characters. From the chain-smoking ex-timeline cop Macayle, to the self-described sexual predator Cynthia Ruin (who in reality is a terribly broken person), the characters contain a great deal of depth and the reader readily identifies with them. There’s a few two-dimensional characters in the story, but most of them don’t stick around (or survive) for too long to really matter. The one exception to this generality is the president, Amanda Stone. She’s a “two-and-a-half-dimensional” character, that I wish was fleshed out a little better, but fortunately is the exception, not the rule.
In summary, Black Earth: Dark Masquerade is a piece of well-written, enjoyable, and often profound story of science fiction art. Alderman writes as a Christian, and there are certainly Christian themes in his stories, but they are a part of the story, rather than a sermon unnaturally inserted into the story. Some of his characters are believers, some aren’t, but all of them are flawed in their own ways. And unlike so much of “Christian Fiction” (which I wouldn’t do the disservice of labeling this book as) Alderman presents life as it is. Amidst the towering demons, the vicious Legion force and systematic destruction of Earth, the characters curse, use sex to get what they want, smoke, fear, laugh, cry and make horrible choices . . . just like in real life . . . just like in the world most people live in. So, even though portals are opening, hulking beasts are consuming people by the truckloads, and the sun is all but blotted out from the face of the earth, David Alderman paints the picture of a world that all of us recognize as real.
Dark Masquerade sets the stage for the final book and gives the reader a reasonable ending for a second-to-last series book. Any fan of science fiction, fantasy, supernatural drama or apocalyptic stories really ought to read this fast-pace, and engaging series.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on July 25, 2012 :
Survival is a struggle, so much so that luck and fast thinking plays a higher role in who will make it out alive than preparation. Nathan Pierce, Macayle, members of Absolute's Rebellion, and Pearl, Nathan's girlfriend, know this for a fact. They've been hanging low in the previously deserted Westgate Mall Plaza for a little over a week. Though they've taken many measures to protect themselves from the demons, the president, and everyone else out to murder them - and there are many groups who would do anything to see Nathan and Pearl dead - that doesn't mean they can expect to safely live in the Mall for long.
Unfortunately, when danger finally does come, it comes in doubles.
When a mysterious man tells Nathan that there are people in a town 15 miles away who know where Daisy, his sister, will be executed, Nathan is instantly determined to go to that town. However, just as Nathan is starting to create a plan, he learns that the strange sounds many people in the mall have complained about are coming from the Legion (demonic aliens) vessel that landed oddly in the Best Buy next to where everyone is staying. Unlike other vessels, its landing didn't create a massive crater or wipe out square blocks. The tip is protruding from the ground, the rest hidden underneath.
The first time Nathan looked at it alone, nothing happened. It's not until he, Macayle, and Pearl venture to the mysterious vessel together that all hell breaks loose. It turns out Pearl is a key for the special vessels that haven't instantly erupted. The moment she gets near them, the vessel opens and allows new, creepier aliens entry into the world. First emerges a female with black rock material coating her body. She's wearing an elaborate mask, the mask that is gracing the cover of Dark Masquerade, and she's able to cause destruction just by speaking. Unfortunately, there are many more masked females. To make matters worse, as though things weren't bad enough, an alien larger than the Best Buy also emerges.
Nathan, Macalay, and Pearl go back to the Westgate Mall Plaza in the hopes that they can at least help some of the people there, but most of the occupants were already murdered - not by the hands of an alien, but by the hands of a trigger happy, delirous man with a gun.
At this point, the three of them can do nothing but search for the town where people who know about Daisy are supposedly staying.
Just like in the previous two books, there is much more to the adventure than what Nathan is going through, though much of his tribulations effect and are tied to the other conflicts. We also get to see the story from the point of views of Heather, Sin, President Amanda Stone, Daisy, Mr. Silver, Ericka Shane, and Jasper.
President Amanda Stone is hiding in a underground bunker. With members of Absolute and Daisy's Defiance determined to see her dead, that's her best plan of action. She's the only leader with power still on her mind. While others are shaken up by Legion's attacks, she's deadset on conquering and rising beyond the title of President of the United States. She has the dark advisor, the Man of Shadows, on her side promising her power. She needs him for more than that, though. His touch heals her. He is her drug.
And what happens if you keep turning to a powerful drug? After a while, you lose yourself to it.
Sin, meanwhile, is staying in the Village Grove Apartments complex. Sin has the barcode enforced by President Amanda Stone and the Falling Star Directives - laws that ban all religious items, force people to taint their bodies with the barcodes as a means of currency, and sentence opposers to death - but she can't stay in the Sanctuary where all of the government's followers live. A lot of her actions in the previous book have put her on the President's hit list.
With a baby in her womb, the assassin that killed her mother after her life, and a mysterious, powerful man named Ryn deadset on making her his princess/slave, she has plenty of things to worry about. Sex is her greatest weapon and also her greatest weakness. No one knows this better than Ryn, and he will use that against her to make her his.
Halfway across the world, Heather and Griffin, two Wedges, are out to find the blade capable of killing immortals. Without the blade, Earth and other worlds will most definitely be destroyed. Griffin just learned that he is Wedge royalty and has rare, serendipitous powers. Joseph Warren is the Vector agent in charge of their mission. In fact, they are all aboard a Vector ship, their destination the Land of Seven Moons in the Bermuda Triangle.
Unfortunately, the land's monks and leader have no intention of giving them the blade. They're not open to getting involved in any way, and they're willing to take violent measures to make that clear.
Like the monks, Mr. Silver also doesn't care about the pain and suffering everyone is going through. Sure, a quarter of his ships have already left earth and taken people to Anaisha, an untarnished planet where everyone's memories of earth will be erased, but he isn't doing it out of kindness. After all, Mr. Silver is an egomaniac who sees Anaisha as his opportunity to become the god of a new world.
As much as Mr. Silver wishes to go to Anaisha, he know he still has too much work to do at SilverTech Industries to leave just yet. Beside worrying about the messes his losses from previous books may bring him - Hush, the woman he made his slave, his daughter, the time traveling device, and all of the research connected to the device - he also has to handle Tamasine and the assassin Tamasine sent as revenge for when Mr. Silver killed Inken, Tamasine's sister.
Mr. Silver really isn't that concerned, though. Power is his only concern. Just a little more time, a little more research, and his scientists will discover how to go about becoming immortal. Than he really can rule Anaisha as a god.
As expected from a book in the Black Earth series, there is a lot going on. However, there aren't as many events as the previous books, and it's easier to grasp all the different storylines and how they intermingle. Two things came to mind the instant I started Dark Masquerade:
First, the story is very well-written. Everything flows well. I never once found myself unable to read a section due to bad writing.
Second, this would make an awesome comic book series. Seriously. If someone made this into a comic, I would be very excited. I'm smelling a great Indiegogo campaign.
Those two things stuck in my mind throughout the book.
What I liked most about this book, as well as David's other books, is how all the characters and organizations have shades of grey. No one is completely good or bad, black and white, and the uncertainty makes for an intriguing read. If you, like me, love learning about other creatures, worlds, powers, and items, this book will definitely pull you in.
Once again, David doesn't disappoint. I've loved every one of the books in the Black Earth series, in spite of the sometimes overwhelming amount of stuff to keep up with. I know that as soon as the last book comes out, I'll be all over it.
(reviewed the day of purchase)