Written by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Published by Bad Moon Books
You know all those stories that people tell on Halloween? The ones about missing children and “Satanic” cults and ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged-beasties? Of course those stories aren’t true. The truth is far more frightening. Between this world and the next, there sits a thin wall that holds the terrors of the netherworld at bay. On one side of the wall, The Church of Midnight. On the other, The Church of Morning. And to bridge the gap between them, they must have a sacrifice: The Heart of the Harvest. Which would be fine except it’s an actual heart they want. Not just one, but many over the years, and with every heart ripped, still beating, from its owner’s chest, the doorway between the worlds opens just a little bit wider. Welcome to Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s Black and Orange.
Black and Orange is largely the story of the Nomads, two wanderers who were charged by powers they’ve never seen to protect people they’ve never met. Cut off from their families, friends, and even largely themselves, they travel with little more than waning faith and limited funds to try to stop the demonic Reverent Cloth from opening the doorway between worlds. Martin, the newest of the pair, still has serious misgivings about his role and about his partner, Teresa, who is dying a slow and painful death from lung cancer. On the other side of the coin, the darker powers play their own games that include torture, murder, mutilation, sex, and all other sorts of nastiness to ensure their own success.
What makes Black and Orange such a compelling read, aside from the fact that it’s excellently written and is one hell of a story (no pun intended), is that it is largely a human story. The Nomads have to face everyday worries and hurdles, and we the readers are there for every gut-churning moment as Teresa creeps closer to leaving Martin alone with his duty. In the bad guy camp there are human machinations going on to climb up the ranks of the Church. These plans, largely put forth by a man named Paul (who murders his best friend so he can take his place as Archbishop of the Church of Midnight), make him and the other members out to be the animalistic side of humanity, driven by lust, greed, and ambition. Add to the mix the “Messenger,” who sends his poverty-stricken Nomads out with only vague instructions and who expects zealotous devotion, and Reverend Church, a demonic manifestation of the evil from the other side, and you have two seemingly polar opposites that use their pawns to fight their battles for them.
Black and Orange is a dense read with excellent action sequences and enough blood to satisfy any fan of the genre. In the Reverend Church, Ethridge has created what should become a new horror icon that rivals The Candyman and The Collector. The horror is visceral and real and the emotions hit like a double gut-punch. The only slight of the book is that, while it starts off with a bang, retelling the final moments of the battle one year previous, there are great sections where nothing much happens. Driving, musing about Martin’s dying partner, bitter rants against the power that dragged them into this lifestyle make up a good chunk of the book. While every part seems necessary, certain places drag. Ethridge makes up for it, however, by bookending the slower scenes with skin-crawlingly horrifying moments.
Black and Orange is well worth the read, and with it Benjamin Kane Ethridge has shown himself to be a writer of talent and ability.
4 out of 5
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