Darkness Whispers

March 5, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

darknessDarkness Whispers by Richard Chizmar & Brian James Freeman

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Darkness Whispers is actually a collection of short stories than an actual novella. The title story is novella-length, written by both authors, while the collection also features one story written solo by each author. Like most collections, it’s a mixed bag of quality.

The title novella is about a mysterious man who comes to town and wreaks havoc by granting some residents their heart’s desire, and others their worst nightmare. It sounds a lot like Needful Things to me, but where King’s book followed his formula of likable characters in unlikable situations, Darkness Whispers is just plain unlikable. The authors cheat their way through the story, building up a false tension by writing lines like “Had he known it would be his last day with his family, he would have spent more time with them at breakfast”, but then ends the story by having the whole family survive. It’s fine that the authors took the story in that direction, but they cheat by hinting that the story will end differently than it does. It destroys whatever credibility the authors have, and it means we can’t trust them any more. (And, frankly, the less said about the ending with Hitler, the better. It’s just cliched at this point.)

“The Meek Shall Inherit…” is Chizmar’s solo story, and is compelling, but by the time the story finally gets interesting, it ends. It reads more like a spec summary for a novel than a story into itself, and I felt disappointed with it. I don’t have to have a firm resolution to every story I read, but for this one, I needed more details, and needed to know how it would end.

Freeman’s story, “What They Left Behind”, is the best story in this small collection, but even it isn’t a five-star story. What makes it work is the atmosphere Freeman creates around the story, which imbibes the story with a just-right creepy feeling. I only wish he had been able to bring more of that atmosphere and subtlety to the title story.

Darkness Whispers isn’t a top-tier collection, but it does have its moments. I only wish that the title story had been more trustworthy, and that it had featured more of the best skills of each writer. As it is, it’s mediocre at best, and not something I would recommend even to the most hardcore of horror readers.

Started: December 25, 2017
Finished: December 26, 2017

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