I’m a fan of the Saw franchise; I’ll admit that before continuing. Not of the blood, guts and outlandishly creative ways in which the characters in the movies die, but of the storytelling side of the franchise. As each of the movies came out I was astounded at how the movies interlinked and how, joined together, they told one long intricate tale. So when I saw the words ‘From the writers of the Saw franchise’ on the cover of Black Light, I immediately picked up the book and read the back – which then got me curious enough to begin reading in earnest. I never expected this book to be as good as it was, to be honest.
On the first day I think I read about sixty pages (a mean feat for a bookseller on a work-day, you have to admit), and each consecutive day I read around thirty pages a day. I was hooked on the story and the main character (which definitely helped, to be sure) but the book is also so fast-paced and interesting that I just didn’t want to put it down.
The protagonist of Black Light, Buck Carlsbad, is one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across – he’s a tortured man, tortured not only by his gift but by not truly knowing who he is, where he comes from, etc. He’s also not a guy with altruistic motives – he does what he does for selfish, personal reasons and this creates plenty of conflict for him in the book because there’s a potentially deadly price to what he can do. But for all of this he still becomes a likable character and I was cheering him on first because of the mysteries that he has to solve (and the lengths he has to go to to solve them) and then later on because I truly sympathized and liked him – here was a guy in a terrible situation, pulled to do all he can to solve the mystery he’s faced with because it’ll give him the answers he’s long wanted, but he also knows that he may not like the answers at all.
The story is set in what could be a slightly alternate America, where a charismatic politician has joined forces with the guy who has built the fastest MagLev train in the world; but the problem is that the train runs through a particularly supernaturally dangerous region; I don’t want to spoil the danger for you, what the threats are, what Buck can do and how it affects him, but suffice it to say that reading this book is like reading the product of something David Lynch might write with a character similar to 24’s Jack Bauer – but Buck has supernatural knowledge and a selfish drive while being completely aware of his selfishness. As the plot pushes onward there are plenty of shocks – we get treated to haunted houses, roiling emotional rollercoasters, slap-in-the-face philosophy, a high tech background and some truly unique and unsettling supernatural dangers.
In short, if you’re worried about this book reminding you of Saw in any way, don’t worry about it. Black Light is frightening, shocking, humorous (blackly, yes, but still), surprising, unsettling and addictive. The ideas in the book are, at least to me, unique and brilliant – once you know just what the Black Light is you’ll probably be as terrified for Buck as I was… And in awe of his drive and commitment to not only succeed but to push through to the truth of his heritage.
At the end of the book there’s a ‘Credit Roll’ in which the authors talk a bit about how the book came to be, and at the end they said: “Thanks for reading. Please let us know if you want another one. We’ll totally write it.”
I totally want another one!
9 / 10
To order your copies of Black Light, click here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and here if you’re in South Africa. If you want some more info about the book and the authors, check out the Facebook page.
Until next time,