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Book Review: Eat the Dark by Joe Schreiber

 
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Book Review: Eat the Dark by Joe Schreiber
 PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:23 pm Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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In preparation for Joe Schreiber’s upcoming Star Wars horror novel Deathtroopers, I decided to read Mr. Schreiber’s two previous works, Eat the Dark and Chase the Dark. By fate of the post office, I received Eat the Dark first and reluctantly set down Wild Space in order to dig into this new prize. Quickly I sped across the pages, scouring the words, and paying attention to the style, the characters, and the setting, making sure I had a firm image of what the author was trying to display. With the first half dozen pages, I wasn’t very impressed. The main characters were introduced, the setting was displayed, and some of character plots were prepped for launch. Note the word launch. The beginning, the first couple chapters are like the prep stages for launching a NASA rocket. Mission control and the flight team go through the routine procedures, essential, but a little mundane. And then the switch is flipped and things accelerate on a rollercoaster ride that defies physics and soars up into the air with gripping anticipation, razor edge thrills, and epic eeriness. When I finished reading the last page, I realized I’d just finished reading a work of brilliant skill. The book itself is short, short enough that you can read it in one day, in fact I took the entire evening off to enjoy this book. Yet this story in itself is in no way short. It goes out and tells the story without dropping anything in the way of development or exploration. Everything that needed to be done was done. In my opinion the ability to be able to read a story in one sitting is a marvelous idea. It keeps the reader dug in and enraptured without losing focus. And what Schreiber accomplishes leaves no doubt in my mind why they chose him to take Star Wars into the realm of Horror.

Without revealing too much, Schreiber sets his story up to take place in an old hospital that is about to be closed down. There are several main characters to the story. Mike is an MRI technician whose job it is to pull the last shift at the hospital before it closes. His wife Sarah and son Eli come to visit, though Sarah’s real reason is her suspicion that Mike is cheating on her. The other woman in the equation is Jolie, a flirt who knows she has looks and isn’t bashful about using them. Then there’s Calhoun, the scrawny alcoholic security guard who has some problems of his own but means well. There’s Dr. Walker, the only physician remaining in the hospital and one other guest who pops in, Frank Snow, the last patient on the last day. Each character has their motivations, their flaws, and a part to play in the tale to come.

Now I’m not going to ruin any of the plot, even the minor events, because it is so much better having it all build up with surprise. In fact I’d recommend not even reading the blurb on the back cover but simply charging in with a blank slate. For those of you who would like to hear the details and don’t mind spoilers, I’ll include a stub at the bottom for your enjoyment. However, for the rest of us, let me give you an idea of what to expect. In terms of style and genre, Eat the Dark starts out as Stephen King’s The Shinning, then metamorphosis’s into Saw. There’s a part in the center of the novel where all the pieces begin clicking into place in a massive game of choice where each person has an opportunity to choose their fate. But afterwards the puzzle games slips into new, darker territory. Realms seldom ventured to. It is at this point that Eat the Dark becomes a masterful rendition of H.P. Lovecraft’s finest ideals. As the climax rises the story turns into a scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing. Finally in makes one last turn back into the realm of Lovecraft, and there the story ends. A suspenseful, gripping ride that leaves off with a final death’s head grin.

To finish things off I’m going to include a little of the style that Schreiber uses. His descriptions and fluent play on words really shines once the horror elements of the story kick into place. For example, in order to describe the fear that a character is feeling, he goes on to say “The fear was fully disorienting, like the first taste of some ancient alcohol, an overwhelming spirit whose elemental effect on his species had not changed for thousands of years.” Then there his skillful portrayal of darkness, “In the darkness shapes were beginning to coalesce, leaning figures with gangling limbs, the misshapen heads stamped with oblong faces and deep, insane eyes.” The picture presents the fear of the shadows, the terror that our mind creates out of the unknown. Even a simple line like “His face was like broken clockwork,” does a wonderful job at displaying the confusion on a person’s face but without wasting the moment. Little things like that appear throughout. In fact Schreiber even puts in a line to expand upon the title of the book:


Out of nowhere a Bradbury line occurred to him, stuck in his mind from a junior high paper he’d once written on Something Wicked This Way Comes: “They eat the dark, who only stand and breath.”

Through the clockwork collusion of details and events coupled with the descriptions and escalating turns, Eat the Dark easily ranks up there with any of Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft’s works. If Schreiber can make the leap of bringing his world to the expanded universe of Star Wars, then Deathtroopers will truly be one of the best Star Wars novels out there.

Now for those of you looking for a little more detail and spoilers, without completely spoiling the novel, read on…


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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:23 pm Reply with quote  
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  Caedus_16
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Wow, I'm considering reading some of his stuff now. That sounds really interesting. I'm even more excited for his Star Wars novel now!
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 PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 2:15 pm Reply with quote  
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  Mara Jade Skywalker
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Oh, awesome. Our library has both on audio, so I can listen to them on the way to school! Is there any reason I should read one before the other, just so I know? I can't wait! Very Happy
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 PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 12:42 pm Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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I haven't read Chasing the Dark yet so I wouldn't know. Have to finish Wild Space first...
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"I believe toys resonate with us as humans, we can hold them them, it's tactile, real! They are totems for our extended beliefs and imaginations. A fetish for ideas that hold as much interest and passion as old religious relics for some. We display them in our homes. They show who we are. They are signals for similar thinking people. A way we connect with each other...and I guess thats why I do toys. That connection." -Ashley Wood


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 PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 1:28 pm Reply with quote  
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  Mara Jade Skywalker
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Well my particular branch of the library had Eat the Dark, so I've gone ahead and started listening to that one. I have Chasing the Dead on order, so will listen to that one next. Smile
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 PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:38 am Reply with quote  
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  Mara Jade Skywalker
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Extremely good story, but too much language for my taste. And sorry, I don't mean to keep mentioning that. But I don't curse, myself, and so I don't enjoy reading (or hearing) it, either. If there's that much of it, it tends to ruin a story for me.

It started out slow, and I was having trouble paying attention for awhile. But then it was an audio, so that was probably part of it. However, once it finally got down to it, it was very good. I even sat parked in the car at school (I was early) for about 15 minutes just to listen to some of it. There was one part I never understood, however, but now I can't remember what that was. Hmm...

I probably won't listen to the second one, just because of the language issue, unless someone else has read it and can say it's not like the other one in that way. Confused
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 PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:10 am Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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I read Chasing the Dead. It had more language than Eating the Dark, so you probably wouldn't like it. Chasing the Dead was a little different, but still had that supernatural element. This time the main character was a mother trying to get her kid back. The setting being a road trip along some back roads in Massachusetts. It was good, but I did like Eat the Dark better.
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"I believe toys resonate with us as humans, we can hold them them, it's tactile, real! They are totems for our extended beliefs and imaginations. A fetish for ideas that hold as much interest and passion as old religious relics for some. We display them in our homes. They show who we are. They are signals for similar thinking people. A way we connect with each other...and I guess thats why I do toys. That connection." -Ashley Wood


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 PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:58 pm Reply with quote  
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  Mara Jade Skywalker
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Hmm...oh, well. Thanks for letting me know. Smile
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