Written by Tim Waggoner
Published by Leisure Books
I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve read by Waggoner, though for some reason the pessimistic side of me keeps expecting to be. Waggoner is a unique, exciting voice in modern horror and thankfully for me and my pessimism he just keeps getting better.
Darkness Wakes is the latest offering from Tim (read my reviews of his first two, Like Death and Pandora Drive, here and here) and even though it may not be quite a disturbing as his last two, it’s still got an edge to it that helps it stand out from all the other standard horror fare in today’s market.
Aaron is a veterinarian in small town with a good life. Not a great life, certainly not the life he expected he’d have, but he can’t really complain. He’s got a good wife who loves him, though she sure doesn’t show it physically very often, and two healthy kids. That’s really the only positive thing he can say about is children, however; you get the impression he’s not really all that thrilled with either of them for the most part, just going through the motions of what he thinks makes a good father.
One late night he sees a neighbor, a woman he’s been attracted to for a long time, enter a nondescript door in the middle of strip mall with a man most certainly not her husband. Because he’s so repressed and she’s so hot, he imagines she’s going to a swingers party where she is touched and fucked by all manner of men and women with no inhibitions. This one image of what his life could be like if he was with someone more adventurous than his wife leads him down a very twisted path that eventually leads him to find out that, indeed, there is a swingers part going on behind that door… but that’s only the beginning.
Beyond that door wait something called the Overshadow, a creature that has the ability to grant almost more pleasure than a single human can stand. All it requires first is a sacrifice or two…
The title of the book is actually quite befitting the theme of the story. Darkness Wakes is a pretty generic title, don’t you think? I could mean almost anything. Much like the book it contains, though, it means a lot more than you initially theorize it might. In the same way, the story is about the horrible, evil things that go on behind closed doors and how much more evil and disturbing they seem to be when they take place in the suburbs, that place of supposed refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life that generally causes it’s inhabitants to become so repressed they do things they never though possible just to feel alive again.
Granted it’s not a new theme or idea, but as always it’s not about the idea but how it’s executed, and Waggoner is a master executioner. You really get inside of Aaron’s head as the entire story (with some minor exceptions) is told from his perspective so you’re really able to feel the entire arc he goes through, from repressed suburbanite to wild and daring explorationist to a guilt-ridden husband and father in a very short period of time. It’s not a pleasant journey and a lot is lost along the way, but in the end he really does get what he’s always wanted. Because of that I guess you could almost say Wakes has a happy ending. But since it’s Waggoner you know it’s going to be a pretty fucked up version of happy.
For those familiar with his past novels never fear; he’s not gone all soft on us and left out explicit sexuality, though this time (again, with some minor exceptions) it’s a bit more believable than, say, the giant sex monster from Like Death that I still have nightmares about. I wouldn’t quite say he’s toned down, but the sex and sexuality in Darkness Wakes isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as it has been in his previous works, or if it is he fits it in a lot better to the overall story so it feels a lot more natural.
So chalk up another great book for Waggoner and another evolutionary step for an author that I hope will just keep turning on more and more fans, both through is writing and his imagery!
4 out of 5
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