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)