Friday, May 15, 2015

Into the Dark (formerly Going Gray)

Into the DarkInto the Dark by Brian Spangler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What I loved: Going Gray (original title at time of review) gripped me from the very first sentence. This novel doesn't mess around--it dives into the story right away. The concept is exciting and intriguing--a fog that poisons/burns upon contact. The author does a great job of building intensity and fear. Truly, one wouldn't think that acid-fog would make for a scary book, but there were scenes so terrifying that I had to put the book down for a few minutes and figure out how to breathe properly again. In some ways I would classify this book as YA horror.

What I struggled with: There is very little character development, which made it difficult for me to care about the characters. The protagonist, Emily, has almost no personality. She's not brave, she's not cowardly, she's not smart, she's not shallow, she's just...there. And Peter, the love interest, feels like he was thrown in as an afterthought. He, too, has almost no personality, and the romance that develops between him and Emily is bland. Also, the characters in the mall--I understand that they're minor characters, but there was nothing to distinguish one from the other. Really, I couldn't even tell the difference between Mr. Holcomb and Ms. Parks, which is saying a lot considering they're two different genders. It was disappointing, because trapping a band of survivors in a mall presents such an awesome opportunity for interesting interactions and sub plots, but the characters were so flat that by the end of the book I honestly didn't care what happened to any of them.

Another huge minus is nothing is ever explained. The giant fog machine can't be turned off--why? Why was the machine built in the first place? (We know it was to save humanity, but from what?) The machine is very localized--why can't some military from the opposite side of the country, or the globe, nuke the thing once they realized it had backfired? How does slow-moving fog incapacitate the entire world at once? Why aren't the survivors in the mall able to get ahold of other survivors via radio and such? (Surely there are people in China or Australia who have yet to be overtaken by the fog, given that the machine is local to Emily's town). How was Emily able to walk through the fog toward the machine in the epilogue?

I think Spangler has such a cool concept for this novel, and I don't agree with reviewers who felt it was too reminiscent of Stephen King's "The Mist'--Spangler's novel is definitely its own creature. I only wish he would have given reasons to justify his premise so I didn't have to spend the whole book scratching my head, thinking "Did I miss something?" He includes a lengthy epilogue, but instead of answering questions, it brings up more.

In short: 3 stars for a fabulous concept, awesome intensity, and clever writing; minus 2 for poor character development/exposition. Maybe Book 2 will fill in the gaps? Here's hoping.

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