Friday, December 11, 2009

The Dark Man

Title: The Dark Man

Series: None (Currently)

Author: Marc Schooley

Genre: Adult Futuristic Thriller

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Dark Man:

The dark man was back.

Charles Graves fidgeted at the top of the staircase, keeping a wary eye on the man while attempting to eavesdrop on the ruckus developing below. It was a delicate balancing act.

The staircase wound around a spacious entry hall furnished with marble floors, luxurious antiques, portraits, and a gold chandelier with 121 bulbs. Thirty-two gold-inlaid steps led from the base of the staircase to the top step. Wooden eagles perched every five feet along the banister. The eagles’ shadows soared across the wall opposite the banister in the light from the chandelier as if they were flying in formation.

The staircase culminated in a balcony, which fronted four rooms located above the entry hall of the Graves Mansion. One of these, the farthest from the staircase, belonged to Charles. The closest had belonged to his brother, Stephen.

Charles peeked through the woodworking adorning the balcony’s railing. A forgetful, mechanically overproduced tune from the ASL meandered through the house, droning its way to the balcony. The singer alluded to something about the brotherhood of man. Charles did not understand the phrase.

Something crashed downstairs and the music stopped. They were arguing again.

A master of disguise tries to eradicate a remnant of the church—and gets in deeper than he ever expected.

The Craft: The Dark Man lacks the polish of truly great writing, but the overall story is solid, with an intriguing twist of perspective on a common premise—the attempted eradication of the church—of Christian futuristic thrillers.

In the problem department, the beginning is slightly rough and fails to captivate as quickly desired. There are also several spots that it becomes hazy and confusing about what’s happening because of the internal dialogue. However, if the readers will slog through these points, they will discover characters larger-than-life and a plot worthy of the old Mission: Impossible shows.

The Content: The Dark Man has content that provides a fresh perspective on old spiritual truths. The human struggle with evil, especially that which resides within, and the providence of God come to the forefront in a way that allows the reader to see these things at work believably yet causing the breath to hitch in amazement.

Unfortunately, my one complaint, however, is one that screws with all the good, both in craft and content: The ending doesn’t ring quite true.

While the sacrifices made at the climax are necessary and not totally unexpected, the way the end was written made those sacrifices seem pointless, even senseless.

I understand that in real life, with our limited perspective, such things often do seem senseless and pointless. But the fact remains that God is sovereign and He wastes nothing. That is part of why we read story in the first place—to make sense of the story we are living in, to provide hope that there is a point and purpose to life.

But The Dark Man fails to sufficiently provide such hope, unintentionally leaving a bitter taste of hopelessness and defeat in the reader’s mouth. While I believe justification for the sacrifices does exist in the book (and a sequel could help clarify), those reasons have become buried and it looks like, in many ways, that evil has won in the end.

In a novel so strongly focused on the providence and power of God, that is a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

Summary: Although an exciting novel, the conclusion of The Dark Man soured much of the good that went before, at least for me. I recommend readers weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully, taking into account personal limitations. However, many readers—both teens and adults—will no doubt find The Dark Man thrilling and a worthwhile read.

Rating: Craft—3, Content—3, Overall—3.3 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

Marc Schooley said...

Hello Chawna,

A couple of things:

I love your tagline to this blog: A Professional Liar's Perspective on the Friction between Faith and Fiction. It's one of the best I've seen, and there's at least one lofty theme encased there.

Secondly, this may, or may not, surprise you, but I loved your review. Very well done, and you have my appreciation for taking the time to prepare and post it.

The review seems very honest on your part, as far as I can tell from a distance, and it belies a genuine embrace of The Dark Man, rather than a cursory reading. What more could an author ask for? Thanks again.

I've received all types of criticism, both good and bad (mostly good), and perhaps other than those who simply dislike dream sequences or the fantastic, your criticism of the ending is most common. Oddly enough, many of the best things I hear concern the ending as well. Thus, all I know for certain is that there has been much emotional investment in the story and in Charles Graves communicated to me. Again, as an author, I couldn't ask for more than to have someone care about the ending! I apologize, but then I'm in a way happy as well :)

I like this line of yours: That is part of why we read story in the first place—to make sense of the story we are living in, to provide hope that there is a point and purpose to life. I've always thought that it is just as things are the toughest or most bleak, that faith, hope, purpose, meaning, and the like are proven strongest, or weakest for that matter. Nevertheless, I hear you loud and clear, and that's another reason I wanted to thank you for the review. It's definitely constructive with a view to the future, and as you allude to, this story does not end here.

At any rate, I'm sincerely appreciative of your consideration and time.

All the best,

Marc Schooley