Like his debut, Demon Light (1988), Straczynski's second horror novel unfolds beneath the shadow of Stephen King--here, in a King-like exploration of teen-age angst brought to a boil by an otherworldly terror. But, as before, Straczynski's strong pacing and sensitively restrained imagery are his own. The elusive nature of the menace that plagues 16-year-old hero Chris Martino and best friend Roger Obst is the story's strongest and most original suit; perhaps a race of intelligent insects, perhaps a demonic force made flesh, the menace--the OtherSyde--materializes from unknown dimensions, feeds on human suffering, and both serves and consumes its human contact. Its current contact is Roger, the nerdy teen whom Chris, newly moved to L.A. from New Jersey, befriends during his first clay at his new high school. After a run-in with some school bullies that cements the friendship, Roger inadvertently initiates contact with the OtherSyde by staring into the eyes of its old contact, a demented wanderer. Soon, both Roger and Chris are receiving cryptic messages (""WHO I aM IS wHErE i Am iS who i am"") from the OtherSyde, first in secret writing writ in lemon juice, then via telegraph key. Chris, terrified, begs off; but Roger carries on a nonstop conversation with the OtherSyde, which persuades him that he has an exalted destiny, and then, assuming various guises, acts as his agent of vengeance against the school bullies and others: leading one bully into a fatal car accident, seducing a strict teacher into suicide. Meanwhile, an appealing pair of cops investigates the rash of deaths; after the OtherSyde kills one, Chris joins forces with the other in a spooky nighttime climax to stop deranged Roger and the OtherSyde from their ultimate goal: to massacre the entire high school. The teen-revenge theme is very old hat, but Straczynski's low-gore, high-atmospherics writing casts a memorably eerie spell across his pages--and marks him as one of horror's most promising young talents.