Monday, December 24, 2007

Review: Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky

Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky launches the new Wizards of the Coast Discoveries imprint featuring original speculative fiction works that cover a wide range of subjects. I stepped outside of my typical reading habits for this one – Firefly Rain is more horror-suspense and southern-gothic (or snowbird gothic as Dansky himself describes it) than the typical SFF I read. In many ways this is an enjoyable step back in time for me since I read a lot more within the horror genre (mostly Stephen King and Dean Koontz) when I was younger.

Jacob Logan is returning home and the vacant house and empty land deep in the Carolina countryside are the last place he wants to be. His last visit was to bury his mother along side his father and he hopes this visit will be equally brief. Jacob immediately notices a few oddities as his luck turns even worse – things just don’t feel right. Encounters with Carl, the particularly surly groundskeeper and equally surly local cops only add to his worries has he struggles with the ghosts of his past.

Firefly Rain takes two of the more common horror tropes – estranged relations with family and the creepy small town – and writes a really decent story with them (well, there’s a third common trope but I’ll leave that out here). It reads fast and the descriptive prose captures the dark and threatening mood of the story well while interjecting just the right amount of humor at the right times. Dansky really shines in his portrayal of the small southern town with friendly hospitality laced with a distrust of outsiders and a sharp word for superior-minded city-folk.

Told in a first-person point of view, a lot of time is spent getting into the mind of Jacob. As a result, Jacob’s character is presented well, though it left me wanting more. The estranged relationship with his parents lies at the heart of things, but we are never given very convincing reasons why. I suppose it could be viewed positively that Dansky didn’t feel the need to go over the top and throw all sorts of horrifying abuses at Jacob’s childhood, but I did find myself questioning why things seemed so bad to Jacob.

With the concentration on Jacob, the supporting cast is regulated to little more than caricatures that manage to serve their roles well. In an all-too predictable way, every person we are introduced to has an eventual role to play. It could be considered efficiency, but it rubbed me a bit wrong in the ‘everybody really is out to get me’ kind of way.

The plot moves forward adequately, with the best parts of the book coming in the more descriptive aspects. At times you could feel the oppressive wet heat of the south and the lightening-quick change of weather that a storm can bring. It had me remembering the ominous feeling you can get when visiting that distant relative in the country and their creepy old house – where my city car gets stuck on the road or a flat tire in the mud.

Firefly Rain was a quick and refreshing change of pace from my usual fair. I enjoyed it quite a bit in spite a couple flaws and have no trouble recommending it to most any audience. It’s a decent debut for Wizards of the Coast Discoveries and I look forward to seeing what comes next. 7/10


Tia Nevitt said...

I'll have to check this out to see if it is a debut.

Happy New Year, Ken!

Carl V. Anderson said...

Happy New Year Ken! I look forward to more of your great posts in the coming year!


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