Two young women see something they shouldn’t have and are already regretting it. Then the insanity begins.
Kiernan (Threshold, 2001) can write like a banshee, with high-flying, incendiary prose that few authors, even fewer if we’re talking strictly about fantasy and horror scribes, could hope to emulate—and that’s both the best and worst thing about this new outing: the writing is almost distracting. At the start, we’ve got a pair of lovers living in a nice house off Alamo Square in San Francisco: Daria Parker is a rock star just starting on the downward slope of her popularity, while her lover, Niki Ky, is a schizophrenic mess. Confined mostly to her room, Niki is looked after by Daria’s assistant, Marvin, who sincerely wants to believe Niki when she tells him about all the horrifyingly real and monstrous visions she has. The emotional bomb that went off in Daria and Niki’s past is a vaguely alluded-to event at a house back in Birmingham, before Daria’s band hit it big. Now, Niki is drugged-up and hallucinating about monsters, demons, and her dead lover Spyder, while Daria has to go back on tour to pay the mortgage and all. The problem is that Niki’s hallucinations are in fact not quite fantasy, and it isn’t long before she’s pulled headlong into another dimension where a millennia-long war is raging between dark forces who think she just might be a prophesized messiah or oracle. Kiernan paints her pages in feverish, chiaroscuro shades; few readers will escape a palpable chill when Niki’s reality begins to collapse and the darkness about her heaves with ominous portent. But the story’s stuttery, jumpy quality—perhaps attributable to Kiernan’s past as a comic book writer—has a tendency to sap these scenes of their initially explosive impact.
Still, a bridge to the beyond, built out of exquisite dread.