Archive | October, 2010

The Painted Darkness By Brian James Freeman

14 Oct

Henry, like all of us, carries his past with him. But Henry’s past has teeth and have drawn blood already. It will draw blood again.

 

When Henry was a child, something happened in the words behind his home. Something so awful, so horrible, that he shut the event inside of himself, never to see the light of day again. The only way he lets the horrible memory out is to paint.

 

But Henry is not just painting. He is painting against the darkness.

 

Twenty years have passed since that horrible event and Henry still paints. He spends more and more time in front of his easel, letting the art of painting take him away to a place that only Henry knows.

 

But the darkness waits for no one. During a winter storm, Henry goes down to the cellar in his old stone farm house to fill the steam boiler. As he descends into the cellar, Henry has no idea that he is about to come face to face with the darkness he has been carrying with him for the past twenty years.

 

And the darkness is hungry…

 

There are not enough words to describe how truly good The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman is. Excellent, stupendous, enthralling? Not good enough. Amazing, incredible, thrilling? Not even close. Nothing can really describe The Painted Darkness, you have to read and experience it for yourself.

 

When I first got my advance readers copy of the novel, I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting very much. The book seemed so slim, too slim, really, to be called a novel. But I was wrong, so wonderfully wrong.

 

It was as I was reading the superb introduction by Brian Keene that I realized I might be in for a treat. Keene called Freeman an artist. And there is no truer word to describe Freeman. I would even go so far as to call him a master of his art.

 

Though The Painted Darkness is only 179 pages or so, the beauty of the words make the novel feel twice as thick. The power behind the words, their seemingly simple prose, pull the reader in to the ride of a lifetime and leave the reader wanting more.

 

Everything about this book is spectacular. The wonderful introduction by Brian Keene and the fabulously creepy illustrations by Jill Bauman really help to capture the tone of the novel, the gorgeous cover that pull you into the story.

 

But it is the novel itself, Henry’s story, that really packs a punch. Alternating between the present and the event that happened twenty years ago, Freeman has crafted a Lovecraftian tale of horror that is never what we think it will be and leaves us wanting so much more.

 

The Painted Darkness goes beyond being just a good book. It is a great book, a fantastic book, meant to be devoured and then read again so one can savour it and every well placed, beautiful word. Brian James Freeman has written what is most likely the best book of the year.

 

The Painted Darkness is a novel that captures first the mind, then the heart and taps into our worst fears with gusto. It’s an incredibly well written novel that anyone and everyone should read and experience.

 

And remember, don’t just paint. Paint against the darkness…

 

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Player One, What Is to Become of Us by Douglas Coupland

14 Oct

 

There is usually one thing I can always count on when I pick up a new novel by Canadian author Douglas Coupland. And it is this: I never know what I’m going to experience, but there will be some things that will be familiar.

 

Player One, like most of Coupland’s work, concerns itself with the idea of stories. But this time there is a twist. Instead of being concerned with telling stories this time around, Coupland turns the focus more internally.

 

This time, Coupland wonders what it would be like if our lives became a story; what would happen if our lives became a series of instances in a plot. A heady concept for a novel, to be sure, and one that Coupland pulls off incredibly well.

 

The novel is divided into five chapters with each chapter broken down into five parts. Each of these five parts is told by a different person. Coupland has used the rotating narrative before, but never so effectively. In Player One, we meet the following:

 

Karen: A single mother looking for another chance at love (or at least lust) who is meeting an internet hook-up in a Toronto air port bar.

 

Rick: A down on his luck bar tender in the Toronto air port bar who has been trying to turn his life around (thanks to the promises of late night infomercials).

 

Luke: A middle aged pastor who has lost his faith completely. He is also a liar, a bit of a drunk and a thief.

 

Rachel: A cool blond number with problems of her own. After over hearing her father say that she isn’t human, Rachel has come to this air port bar in hopes of meeting a man who will impregnate her.

 

Player One: Little is known about Player One, but Player One knows everything…

 

The five people are thrown together when a global disaster brings the world crashing to a halt. Explosions boom through the air, people are being shot and chemical clouds are traveling through the sky.

 

Not knowing what else to do, the five strangers sit in the air port bar, hoping for safety and for some sort of salvation. But salvation, when it comes, will take one of them away forever…

 

My meagre plot summary doesn’t even come close to covering what happens in Player One. The novel ruminates on subjects such as religion, DNA, the art of the story, faith, pregnancy and death and that’s just within the books first pages.

 

What Coupland does so well is presents us with ideas that make us think in the form of a story. A few authors have tried this with dismal results, but for Coupland, the process seems to be natural. Instead of coming off as clunky, Player One instead is a lightning fast read where the pages turn themselves and you can’t wait to find out what happens.

 

Player One, What Is to Become of Us, a novel in five hours, is without a doubt one of the neatest, most inventive novels I have read in years. Perhaps one of the best books of the year. Don’t miss this book and get yourself a copy.

 

You won’t want to miss a word.