on Nov. 27, 2011 :
I read This Brilliant Darkness this week. It was a wild ride! I find myself thinking about it a week later. This is a good thing. Check it out.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)
on Oct. 31, 2011 :
I’ll begin with this: I’m a sucker for a well-written, fast-paced story with a twist that involves physics and supernatural phenomena. My bias clearly labeled at the outset, I’ll begin my review of Red Tash’s well-written, fast-paced story of twisty physics and the supernatural entitled This Brilliant Darkness The physics part of it involves the appearance of a star, Stella Mirabilis, above Bloomington, Indiana. It’s the star’s behavior that provides the twist to the tale—a time traveling star that flickers in and out of our reality like particles flicker in and out of our reality. The star draws out the supernatural, and for one Christine Grace, the consequences of its appearance suddenly and abruptly pound down into her own reality—a reality shared by her erstwhile boyfriend who is desperate to marry her and start a family, who is caught up in the strangeness that begins to define their existence in Bloomington.
The characters pop from the pages, and the interactions among them keep you turning pages. What’s up with this character (I particularly liked Tristan)? How is Ms. Tash going to draw all these seemingly disparate threads together (she does, and that’s the only spoiler I’ll provide, because I want you to READ IT). It’s smart. Ms. Tash pulls no punches in the explanation of the physics of the problem, no punches in the questions Ms. Grace’s class at the university throws at her. The university setting is eminently believable as well. I felt like I was on campus, at The Corner, standing with Christine at that ATM when … well, I won’t spoil that part, either. Let’s just say the whole thing plays like a movie in your head, and you’re going to not want to push “pause” and put the book down.
The chapters are quick and tight. I thought I’d appreciate that—that there were places where I could put the book down without guilt because, after all, I was at the end of the chapter. Well, by midnight, I had not put the book down, and had no intention of putting it down. At 12:15am, my fourteen-year-old son stumbled out to get a drink of water. “You’re still up?” he asked. “Go to bed.” I looked up from my Nook, smiled, and said, “Not on your life, dude. Not until this ends.”
The point of view changes with the chapters. Ms. Tash gives a summary of the characters in the beginning of the book, as if we’ll get confused by having so many players. I didn’t read the characters summaries. I found, as I read, that the characters are so well-drawn and memorable, I didn’t need to read the summaries. I had no problem keeping the who’s who of the cast straight because the personalities were so diverse and the mannerisms and dialog were unique to each. Sometimes the prose devolved into the rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness musings of a particular character. That’s not a bad thing in the least. It set the pace of the story in those places; some of the stream-of-consciousness writing leaves the reader breathless. It’s a catharsis of sorts for the character, but it’s creepy in the best of ways for the reader. Talk about a joy to read.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)
on Oct. 17, 2011 :
Red Tash's The Brilliant Darkness is a dark fantasy involving a young college professor, Christine, her circle of friends and colleagues, and a genuinely weird antagonist named Greachin. Set in Bloomington, Indiana, during a peculiar stellar (literally) event, the Stella Mirabilis, the story unfolds first with a murder, then with a series of increasingly weird and frightening events centered around Christine. There are heavy dabs of both Christian religion and Buddhism scattered throughout, themes of reincarnation/rebirth, karma, and touches of Greek mythology. Nods are also made towards science fiction with the weird "star", time travel, references to "Star Trails" and its star Captain Kurt, played by Bill Schakler, etc.
This Brilliant Darkness has interesting ideas on various religions, and individual people or observations are well described, giving little islands of coherency and humour. The setting is described fairly well, and the author has supplied a map on her website, should you feel the need to confirm locations of various events. Clever double meanings in some of the jokes (e.g., the campus clock time), and other touches of humour were also used well throughout. A few of the shifting perspectives were well done in terms of character voice; you knew who they were through the writing rather than a direct signal.
And now the bad: This Brilliant Darkness is written somewhat disjointedly - it was confusing and hard to follow. While reading it, I felt that there was very little to indicate the passage of time in the story, which added to the confusion. Characters felt unfulfilled/deflated, particularly where there was a sense of importance attached to them. (Kind of like riding to the top of the hill on a rollercoaster, hearing the clicks and the groans of the climb, then stopping at the precipice and having to take a service elevator down.) Rather a lot of referencing in such a short book (.epub edition is around 200 pages) almost to the point of it being a game, which detracted from the story. I also had trouble believing the descriptions of Christine's campus life and her work (or rather the lack thereof) as a professor.
This was similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces; it starts off as an interesting puzzle, but winds up being frustrating, leaving you without any payoff. It may work better combined with its sequel or subsequent volumes, for now it just doesn't feel like a complete, stand-alone work.
Overall: 2.5 or 3 stars
Review copy supplied by the author as part of LibraryThing's Member Giveaway program.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
Christina M. Grey
on Oct. 12, 2011 :
The way the author weaves fantasy, humor, science fiction, and mystery is, for lack of a better word, brilliant. I read the entire thing with admiration/envy, taking notes and thinking 'THIS is how you write a novel.' The religious themes and sexual undertones combine to make an intellectually stimulating joyride. It reminded me of Lorrie Moore (sarcastic, clever) meets Dan Brown (can't put it down, fast paced), but much more poetic. There were layers upon layers of symbols and ideas, but even if you only skimmed the surface, it was a highly entertaining read.
I particularly enjoyed the one-line poems/pop culture nods throughout the chapter titles, ranging from the Pixies, to Harry Potter, to the Hindenburg disaster. I also loved how realistically the characters were portrayed; the dialogue felt like I was hanging out with my friends, goofy, relaxed, and straight forward (My friends are smart and hilarious; YMMV). The best parts of TBD were the touches of modern life scattered throughout the story. Remember when Scream blew the horror world away by actually using technology in a realistic way? Well here's blogging and online forums and long distance cyber friendships, honestly depicting the way we live in the 21st century.
There's some heavy Biblical symbolism, but it never felt overtly Christian. There's also a lot of parallels to science fiction, but I wouldn't call it sci-fi, either. I'm an atheist, but I was a little touched by the subtle way in which the author plants these seeds of faith and doubt simultaneously. Science and Magic and Jesus, together? Absurd! But perfect, if you think about it.
My biggest criticism is that I don't think the cover does it justice (but does any cover, ever, really?). TBD is a modern, intelligent, thrilling masterpiece. I can't wait to see what else Tash does.
(reviewed 29 days after purchase)
on Oct. 7, 2011 :
This Brilliant Darkness by Red Tash is a dark, pretty scary, quite original, and wholly unpredictable horror novel. It's so chock-full of unconventional characters and truly weird plot elements that it's almost impossible to summarize, but I'll try.
Christine Grace is an American college professor. A whole batch of weird things happens to her in short order. A strange unmoving star appears in the sky, and it's only visible over Bloomington, Indiana. A dark immortal creature is hunting her. A man she's never met but has long felt connected with has come to Bloomington. A mysterious young religious pilgrim is seeing her in visions. And one of her students is exhibiting strange powers. It's all connected, and somehow Grace is at the heart of it.
I liked the complete absence of familiar tropes. I couldn't tell you what book this book compares to. It's startlingly original. It's also pretty well-written. There is mystery, romance, rising tension, complex and compelling characters, and an ever-present sense of dread.
Some things I didn't like. It's almost too weird at times. Two of the characters are so deeply odd that the scenes written from their point of view are nearly incomprehensible. Also, I must warn you - this book has some pretty gross imagery. It's not TOO bad, but there is a scene early on, I'll just say that it involves a blood clot and leave it at that. Not really a problem, but you should know that this book is not for the squeamish.
There is brilliance in This Brilliant Darkness. If you're tired of the same old paranormal cliches, this will knock your socks off.
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)