November 12, 2009

Book review: The "Forever Twilight" series, by Peter Crowther

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

Forever Twilight: Darkness, Darkness, by Peter Crowther

Forever Twilight: Windows to the Soul, by Peter Crowther

Forever Twilight: Darkness, Darkness
By Peter Crowther
Drugstore Indian Press / ISBN: 978-1-84863-051-2

Forever Twilight: Windows to the Soul
By Peter Crowther
Subterranean Press / ISBN: 978-1-59606-258-0

Regular readers know that in the last year, I've ended up becoming a pretty big fan of PS Publishing, a British small press headed up by Peter Crowther and specializing in challenging New Weird literature. And so that's why I was so excited to recently receive the first two volumes of Crowther's own "Forever Twilight" series of novellas (put out not by PS itself, but by Drugstore Indian Press and Subterranean Press respectively); because if Crowther can bring that strikingly original an eye to literature as an editor, I thought, he's bound to do the same as an author himself, as I settled back and prepared myself for something along the lines of the exquisitely strange Robert Freeman Wexler or Sebastien Doubinsky. But alas, after getting through these two short books, I was reminded of a realization I've been making more and more since opening CCLaP (and especially since participating in Nanowrimo this year and writing my own first creative project in over half a decade), which is that the creative side of the arts and the administrative side require two almost completely different sets of skills, and that excellence in one does not automatically mean excellence in the other.

Although to be clear, let me emphasize right away that these books aren't actually bad -- they're solid little thrillers, in fact, that fit right in the middle of the quality scale when it comes to the horror genre -- which ironically is my main complaint, that for a guy who specializes in putting out utterly original work by others, his own stories are only middling ones that touch on just about every stereotype the genre even has. It's essentially an ongoing single narrative about a series of strange events that befall the planet over the course of a couple of random nights, where during one blinding flash the vast majority of the human population suddenly disappears, and then a day later some of them just as suddenly reappear, but now with all of them wearing aviator sunglasses and exhibiting zombielike behavior and converting their cars into futuristic hovercrafts and able to kill just through touch alone; the first two books so far in the series, then, take place in and around the Denver area, telling the stories of a handful of people who end up not affected by either of these events (including a sassy radio DJ, a psychotic serial killer, an adorable seven-year-old girl who just happens to be psychic, and more), with the explanation for what has happened apparently being saved for future volumes in the series.

Yeah, starting to sound an awful lot like an amalgamation of Stephen King novels? That's what I thought too, part of the reason I ended up kind of disappointed by these books; and in fact the similarities don't stop there, with Crowther's books also sharing the same frequent dips into immature personal styles, a penchant for too many minor pop-culture references, and even

don't say it Jason don't you dare say it or the creepy crawlies will come after you they'll come and they'll eat you all up

crappily-written inner-brain monologues. And again, this is not necessarily too terribly bad a thing, especially if you're already a fan of Stephen King (which I admittedly am not), just that it's disappointing from the aspect of them being nothing special, pretty much the same kind of so-so mass-alien-abduction tale that genre fans have already read a hundred times.

But my biggest complaint, though, is in the serial nature of these books' overall storyline; that since the entire eventual series is quite obviously going to follow only one giant narrative plotline, it means that these first two volumes are all set-up and with no payoff on their own. And this is something that really irks me about modern serial-publishing experiments, and is the main difference between them and the Victorian masters they are emulating; because older serial authors like Charles Dickens and the like knew how to make each part of their projects a satisfying tale unto itself, almost more like a series of self-contained stories that only then added up to a giant uber-narrative by the end, while modern serial tales tend to simply be one big traditional novel only doled out to the audience a little at a time, almost like taking the audience members hostage for daring to read the first volume to begin with, forcing them to have to continue buying future installments in order to get any pleasure whatsoever out of all those Act One volumes they slogged their way through at the beginning. And if that's the case, I don't see much of a point in publishing the tale serially in the first place, and would prefer that the author just save it all up and put it out as one uninterrupted 800-page novel or whatever.

So, not exactly an official pass on the "Forever Twilight" series today, but not exactly a big recommendation either; if anything I would call them for hardcore horror fans only, although those of you who are hardcore horror fans will find these perfectly delightful. Although as an editor his books are not to be missed, as an author these two novellas can unfortunately be skipped over by most who are only casual fans of this particular genre.

Out of 10: 7.2, or 8.2 for horror fans

Read even more about Darkness, Darkness: Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Read even more about Windows to the Soul: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:37 PM, November 12, 2009. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |