Tuesday 24 February 2015

REVIEW: Monica J. O'Rourke - What Happens in the Darkness

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: 10th Dec 2013
Pages: 361


A copy of What Happens in the Darkness was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Sinister Grin Press, in exchange for an honest review. This is it.

America is under attack. The rest of the world has united and, calling itself the Global Dominion, is destroying the US. Major cities have been devastated. Millions are dying. Janelle is twelve. She is running for her life in Manhattan, the only one of her family to survive. She has a mission to try and get to her aunt in Georgia.

In an Army base not too far away, Jeff is guarding a secret. A secret that has been buried for decades. It’s a secret that Jeff is convinced will help America fight back against the rest of the world. Only problem is, once he unleashes the secret there will be no turning back. Is he helping save the country or ultimately destroying it?

Never read Monica J. O’Rourke before. Seen the name plenty and heard very good things so I was excited to read this one when it arrived from Sinister Grin Press. I had no idea what it was about so went at it totally blind.

The opening scenes in this story are absolutely fantastic. When we meet Janelle the attack has already happened. She is wandering the streets of Manhattan totally lost and then recalls exactly what happened. Looking at this through the eyes of a twelve year old girl is bad enough but the way Ms O’Rourke has written this first sequence will make you crumble. It describes in detail how Janelle’s building gets hit during the bombing and how she has to try and escape from it totally alone. It is totally horrifying in a psychological way. It is really harrowing to read as Janelle struggles to get out of her apartment block with no help from anyone.

So I’m reading a post-apocalyptic horror book. I like this so far. When you get your breath back from that bit, we meet Jeff. He is in the army. He has had the same posting for years, as his father had before him, guarding a secret in a cave far underground a military base. Now, I wasn’t going to reveal the secret that was being kept but if I don’t then the review ends here. If you don’t want to know what the secret is then stop reading now and buy the book.

The secret is Vampires. They have been kept under lock and key by the military for years. Only a handful of people even know they exist. There are seven of them in total, led by Martin. Jeff has the belief that if he releases them, they will be able to help fight the Global Dominion and save the country. He puts all his trust in Martin to keep things under control and only fight the enemy.

Martin and his “family” are released to battle the enemy but one of his family, Patrick, has ideas of his own and ultimately wants to be top dog in the Vampire world and goes against Martin.

I won’t give any more detail on the story and how it pans out but this is where things went a bit flat for me. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of action in this book. Plenty of horror in the sense of Vampires rampaging through the country killing loads of enemies, plus plenty of gore when they are doing it. There is even some, unnecessary in my opinion, Vampire/human sex thrown in for good measure. It flows along very nicely. It just didn’t scare me at all and I found it a bit predictable in places.

There is no doubt that Monica J. O’Rourke can write. Her pacing at times is excellent. The opening scenes are probably some of the best I have read in a novel in a long time. There was also a scene towards the end involving twin Vampires getting a bit of revenge on some rather vile humans. They totally sucked me in and had me glued to the pages. It just didn’t deliver for me in terms of horror or of events that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go. The characters didn’t stand out for me and had me either rooting for them or hating them.

In summary: yeah it’s a good read. I struggled a bit to get through it but that isn’t because it’s bad writing. It just didn’t punch me in the gut and keep punching me. Maybe it will punch you though.

General rating:

★★.5 It held my attention but could have been a lot better for me.

Horror rating:

★★ Gets this for the opening scenes.

You can buy What Happens in the Darkness here:

Amazon US 

Amazon UK

Book Synopsis:

Manhattan died, along with much of the country. Twelve-year-old Janelle lost her family in one horrific night and managed to escape into a no-longer-recognizable city. As she struggles for survival, she comes across something much worse than the decimated landscape, much worse than the enemy soldiers patrolling the streets night and day. Another force has been unleashed, one hell-bent on destroying the invading enemy—but now that they’re out, there’s no turning back.

Monica J. O'Rourke has published more than one hundred short stories in magazines such as Postscripts, Nasty Piece of Work, Fangoria, Flesh & Blood, Nemonymous, and Brutarian and anthologies such as Horror for Good (for charity), The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra, and The Best of Horrorfind. She is the author of Poisoning Eros I and II, written with Wrath James White, Suffer the Flesh, and the brand-new collection, In the End, Only Darkness. Watch for her new novel, What Happens in the Darkness, later this year from Sinister Grin Press. Monica works as a freelance editor, proofreader, and book coach.

Monica's website is under construction so visit her on Facebook.

Monica’s author page can be found here.

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