Friday, July 4, 2014

What Happens in the Darkness: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A review for What Happens in the Darkness, by Monica J. O'Rourke.

"Manhattan died." 

Nutshell: A shock attack by foreign powers leaves America broken and powerless to resist invasion. Meanwhile, there's a soldier with his finger on the button of a secret military project: America has vampires, and he's the one that's going to let them out. 

Trigger warnings for this story: Rape and sexual mutilation, attempted rape of a minor, racial slurs. And gore. There are some horror novels that are light on the gore, but this so ain't one of 'em.

Atmosphere: 4 out of 5. All above-average points go to the first third or so of the story. I love the feeling of this broken, apparently-empty Manhattan that Janelle finds herself in. The imagery of the dead city is set so well. 

Characters: 3 out of 5. Martin the vampire is an interesting character. I wanted to trust him but I really couldn't bring myself to do it, not until the point of view shifted and I was in his head (for that very reason, I don't think this was the best move, because it killed the suspense that was building around him). Jeff is a little less complex and doesn't carry their storyline as well as Martin, but Janelle does a great job. I also like the dynamic that Rebecca and Dagan have. 

Plot: 2 out of 5. I was really into the story, worldbuilding and complaints about the invaders' identity (see Details, details) aside, until about halfway through the Patrick subplot. By the time of the story's climax, the Patrick subplot had kind of worn me out ("fatigued me" is how I put it in my reading notes) and, to be perfectly honest, I just didn't care anymore about it. About the only thing that was neat in the climax was Jeff, and still all I wanted was for this to hurry up and get to something else. But the pacing up until then, especially starting the story after the attacks, was great. 

Writing Style: 3 out of 5. Nothing really bad, nothing really good. There's a bit of an awkward transition out of the flashback and a couple of technical issues (formatting problems and a couple of typos). I also like how the vampires' adventures were partially glossed over in chapter nineteen. Anything else was covered above in Atmosphere.  

Worldbuilding: 2 out of 5. I liked the loyalty mechanism that vampires operated under, and how it needed to be nurtured and could be broken, sometimes by means not perfectly understood by the vampires. It's vaguely familiar but earns this book a 2 anyway. The vampires are your typical fare otherwise, and I really, really don't understand how they didn't come to rule the world already (but were apparently driven to extinction, save seven) when they can multiply their numbers so quickly and they're so powerful. 

Details, details: [here there be spoilers]

Janelle is like, the worst girl ever to be around. If you are around her, you will die. Honestly, I'm surprised that the little tagalong girl survived, but all we know she died five minutes after she went off-screen. Anyway, Janelle is gonna have attachment issues if she survives. "Janelle, I think that you distance yourself from people so that they don't get hurt." "You think?"

Pictured: A surprisingly accurate
depiction of how well an invasion
by North Korea would go. 
The epithet dropping seemed pretty pointless to me, just a way to designate them as villains. As if one of these guys turning into a child rapist a page later wasn't enough of a clue. 

Global Dominion? Honestly? Who's running these guys, Cobra Commander? And what's up with them being a who's who of America's Stereotypical Rogue's Gallery? I mean who invited North Korea to the party? North Korea couldn't conquer a paper bag, let alone a trailer park. 

I mean, I know that I'm in a tricky place here talking about what's realistic in a story where America's response to invasion is vampires, but come on, there has to be a line somewhere, and I'm drawing it at "Somebody thought it would be a good idea to hold a war and invite North Korea." 

Not even Cobra Commander would do that. 

This whole Global Dominion thing, and I really mean everything about except past "they attacked America" (which was kind of the premise, so that's safe), really did a number on the story for me. 

All I can think in chapter nine, when the GD soldier is turned, is "D'aww... Itsa like a wittle vampire puppyyyy, aww. Oh no, her neck got snapped!" I would have cried except that I don't think that I can do that anymore. 

I feel as though the super soaker scene in chapter fourteen was a kind of Take That to rednecks, but that could be just me. 

I thought that Jeff's trench coat was just to make him look badass. Dayum, was I pleasantly surprised to find out that it had a point. And what a point he made! (He made it, I daresay, with a bang). 

The ending was pretty meh. I should have been okay with it, maybe even liked it a fair amount, but that dang battle just killed everything. It wasn't the battle's fault, though. Like I said, it was the Patrick subplot that tired me out. 

Where did the bad man go? What was the bad man? I'd like to have had some closure on that, because at first it seemed like he was a vampire but then... no? Vampires are extinct except for Martin's group? And even if he was, what happened to him? 

In closing: Janelle's a cool kid and chapter nine made me feel like that scene in Cujo where you realize that the dog really loves his boy but he's got rabies so he's going to turn into a monster against his will.

Oh, and O'Rourke gets points for warning about potential triggers on the book's Amazon page. That was nice. 

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