Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The One Who Walks Behind the Truck Stop: Brick Marlin's "Shadow Out of the Sky"
What went well
I like this premise for a number of reasons: 1) The lack of free agency is something that that has caused terror for millennia. We see it in the Bible, where evil spirits are cast out. We recognize it in the zombie legend, where the corpse is controlled by dark magic and enslaved forever. We even find it in Harry Potter, where subjecting someone to your will can be an imprisonable offense. 2) Children are supposed to be sacrosanct. They are the protected, the ones that adults die to save. 3) There is no reasoning with the nature of this evil. Several of the children continue mauling their fellow citizens while faceless or headless. They have a mission and cannot be restrained. I think that I would like to read other books by this writer if he could find a good copyeditor or spell-check because he does have interesting ideas and some funny moments.
Where it went to hell
That said, this is not my favorite book. It does for rednecks what Children of the Corn did for blondes. Granted, since this is Podunk, USA, they all have accents, but the dialogue was inconsistent. The education level of a character often changed in the course of a single paragraph.
All the men were sexist and all of the women were nags. This black-and-white representation bothered me almost as much as the frequent typos and grammatical errors. The author sometimes punctuated with numerals and mistook 'em for 'im. Because all of the characters were inherently offensive to me, I wasn't sure who I wanted to die. He also started the story by introducing a supernatural element described by Dean and referencing Sam. I facepalmed on the behalf of the Supernatural fandom.
Brick brings up a character named Martha. I picture her as Betty White and she is pretty awesome. But her main function is to be the Good-Book-readin' Christian widow who sees this as the end of times. She goes to bed reading from the Revelation of St. John the Divine and wakes up in her personal Armageddon. She says frequently and vehemently that this whole thing is out of Revelations and "LUCIFER HIMSELF!" But nothing about this other than the Greek interpretation of the title--Apocalypse--has any resemblance to the book that she's faithfully remembering. I kept scratching my head and wondering "How?"
The two things that bothered me had to do with backstory. 1) He introduced Kabul, who seems to be a pied piper origin story, and throws in a couple of scenes with him. They don't sufficiently explain the driving force of this massacre. 2) One of my favorite character arcs is that of "Uncle Barry." We know from the story that he is a pedophiliac clown who would promise children toys if they came home with him. When the children go on the rampage, he is punished and taunted by those he murdered. Another woman is depicted praying for the soul of her deceased child, who died through no fault of hers from pneumonia at a young age. The child returns to her and murders her for that crime. The four ring-leading children are known as The Reckoning and they are exacting justice under the direction of evil. This is short-changed in the story.
This is an interesting premise damaged by an outline form. If the stories were told as an anthology, rather than being expected to keep a cohesive story arc, they would have been much more effective. I wanted more of Kabul and his efforts. I wanted examples of other Reckoning actions. I wanted to go read fanfic of both things for the vast, untapped potential. Thanks to Brick for letting me read!