In this companion piece—“A best friend, maybe”—to his 2012 novel Crystal From the Hills, Daniels returns to the experiences of “Shadow seers” Chris Leavitt and Bryan “Weed” Tecco, retelling, elaborating upon and streamlining the events of the previous novel.
As in the previous book, the story begins with a car accident: Recovering meth addict Chris and gamer-savant/drug dealer Weed have crashed into a lagoon outside Bolinas, California. Both are on the run from strange entities they call Shadows, who are “incriminating figures, pointing out the future...especially if it’s destructive,” Weed explains. Sometimes, though, “they embody real people.” In this embodied capacity, the Shadows relentlessly pursue those who can see them. Chris escapes the water and flees; Weed claws his way up from the depths and sets out to find Chris again. At stake are several flash drives Chris had stowed in his backpack; stolen from the video game company Weed works for, they’re the handiwork of Jules Grotius, a Julian Assange–like figure who has leaked embarrassing government secrets and, Weed realizes, has used the higher levels of the game to communicate with those few elite players who can see Shadows, somehow showingthem a greater truth. Or at least that’s what he suspects. Weed and Chris, along with filmmaker Gavin aka Sweet and Chris’s ex-girlfriend Jill, work to come together in Los Angeles to attend a meeting of a secret society of Shadow seers, where, hopefully, they can get some answers. The book avoids some of the faults of Daniels’ preceding effort, replacing plotless meandering with action, though said action can be difficult to follow. This tendency toward confusion is exacerbated by Daniels’ often ponderous prose; purple sentences—“[H]e curses the phone’s petty rejection of his fingers’ not so dexterous movements”—slow down the narrative while readers pick through the hefty adjectives.
A somewhat muddled psychological thriller for the conspiracy set.