I have already reviewed Where Darkness Dwells and will put both reviews together once I finish Nightmare.
Where Darkness Dwells:
This book is certainly aptly titled because it is indeed a very dark story. And it is clear that the darkness of which Krisch writes has many dwelling places, including the human heart. Beneath the surface of Coal Hollow there lie two undergrounds. One is the Underground Railroad which transported slaves to freedom. The other Underground leads to eternal imprisonment and damnation while giving a mockery of paradise and eternal life.
Yes, it is a story of contrasts. Light (sunlight) and darkness; good and evil, hope and despair, the living and the undead, religion and myth. It is a novel where sometimes redemption is only achieved through the ultimate of sacrifices. Where eternal life is a curse and liberation can only be sought through death. Where evil and good live on and continue to battle beyond death.
The people of Coal Hollow are complex. They are flawed. They are weak, afraid, or simply vain and selfish, and yet in spite of this are also capable of supreme sacrifice and heroism. There are touching (and heartbreaking) scenes in which goodness shines through in the darkest of places in this novel. Choices are made: some refuse to be tempted and flee while others take up arms against the evil that emerges from the Underground to drag the living down to Hell. Yet no character's action is without cost.
This is a very dark,and ultimately heroic and redemptive novel that escapes the nihilism that tales of this type often fall prey to. And it is not soon forgotten. A scene of a child searching for a home, a scene of young parents sacrificing all for their baby, and a scene of eternal suffering and damnation that would chill Dante himself run through your imagination long after the last page is turned.
Yeah, I probably need to read a book about puppies right now; but I will remember this book for a long time and will be reading more by Glen Kirsch, both now, and I am sure through the years.
The Nightmare Within:
Not nearly as dark as The Darkness Within. The Nightmare Within made me think of where our dreams come from, from what part of us, and the impact that they have on our lives. Born of trauma, or of lust, or the imagination or perhaps a replay of a beautiful or painful memory---dreams can almost have a life of their own.
I found the premise of a "dream museum" very interesting. If I have one complaint, I really wish that we had gotten an exhibit by exhibit tour. You know, where you put on the headphones and you get this great narrator telling us all the good stories behind the exhibits? I would have liked to have followed more of these dreams as they roamed our world too. There is alot there, I am sure, and I wanted more. To be sure, we got to know Freakshow very well in all his nastiness.
What I loved about this book was Kevin. That kid had heart. Not a false note there. He felt real and I was very moved by his story. And that really makes a novel for me. A good main character really drives the bus and Kevin is as good a main young character as Mark Petrie in Salem's Lot, and for me, that is saying alot. His story is heartbreaking yet he is courageous through it all.
Kirsch also drops some really good surprises in the last 20 or so pages of the book. I mean good in that when the surprise is unveiled and you nod your head and smile because all the clues were there. Sophie's story in particular was really well done. In fact I was very satisfied with the resolution of all of the story lines and that is actually rare for me. Whether the resolution was dark and destructive, or tender and heartwarming, Kirsch knows his characters and he isn't afraid to let them be themselves.