Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Black Star, Black Sun by Rich Hawkins

Black Star, Black Sun is my first exposure to author Rich Hawkins. He previously penned The Last Plague, a novel about a not quite zombie apocalypse, that picked up some good reviews. This work is much shorter, making it a novella, although it is still quite a good size.

The story follows a man named Ben Ottway who, still reeling from his wife's mysterious disappearance, returns to his old hometown to stay with his father and put his life back together. Things take a turn for the worse as Ben begins having disturbing dreams that start to cross over into reality. He thinks he may be going mad, until he realizes that the "dreams" are not experienced by him alone.

Hawkins brings the otherwordly, cosmic horror in droves. Once things begin they escalate very quickly, grotesque scenes abound and the town soon becomes a Boschian nightmare. There are some wonderfully done, creepy segments, but some later parts of the book came across as being laid on a bit too thick. The scenes that were subtle were much more effective, and where the author shined. Many of the earlier scenes with Ben traipsing around and having off-putting encounters were handled like a pro.

The protagonist was very convincing as a man whose life was falling apart, barely hanging on with the the help from nicotine and caffeine. He existed in parallel with his father, who numbed the pain of his widower lifestyle with alcohol. At times I felt like the dad wasn't as developed, but I instead came to see him purposefully portrayed as an almost-empty shell of a man, lonely and filling his time with television and booze while wearing a ratty dressy gown, church being his only real social outlet.

This is a good novella, but it's not without it's problems, many of which are common among newer authors. Some of the side characters came across as rather one-dimensional, and at times I was struck by a repetitiveness. Later parts of the book seemed overlong, and lost some of their effectiveness as a result, whereas a trimming may have resulted in these segments packing more of a punch.

Criticisms aside, I enjoyed the novella quite a bit. Many segments of it really resonated with me. It's the second published book from a new author, and at times it is obvious that this is an early work of fiction. That said, I see a lot of talent in Mr. Hawkins, and I have a feeling I will be doubly pleased with his next offering. In the meantime, fans of Lovecraftian horror should check this novella out, as I have a feeling that many of them will really love this one.

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