I don’t often venture into book reviews as blogposts, but this book warranted more coverage than my Goodreads review.
I won THE TELLING in an online contest on Mike Duran’s blogspot, http://mikeduran.com/. I knew Mike wrote speculative fiction for the CBA, and I’d been intrigued. I was one of the early, feverish fans of Frank Peretti. As far as I’m concerned, nothing has ever stacked up to his book, THIS PRESENT DARKNESS. Except maybe his second book, PIERCING THE DARKNESS.
I’m going to lay it out here, telling you about this book as if you were a friend (and you are). And I will give a SPOILER ALERT, since I tend to drop spoilers inadvertently. But I’m trying not to give away too much in this post.
First of all, if you HATE Peretti or Dekker and can’t stand scary stuff, don’t read this book. I don’t recommend scary books for those who can’t handle scary. It was so scary that I a) bit off every one of my newly-growing fingernails, and b) had LITERAL goosebumps when the Prophet fully launches into his quest.
But if you’re okay with Dekker, Duran just blows him away. I’m personally not crazy about Dekker’s rat-a-tat sentence structures. It’s like Chuck Norris fighting in written form.
But Duran? Duran’s prose is impeccable. I don’t say that lightly, either. I’m very picky about grammar and whatnot. I was occasionally distracted by the dialect, but I figured Duran was capturing the desert vibes with it.
Oh, and the setting of this book! I love the desert setting, on the outskirts of Death Valley. It personifies the bleakness and blackness overshadowing the story. The landscapes were so vivid, I didn’t have to make an effort to “see” things in my head. Plus, the cover art fueled the imagination.
As I started the book, I was a little confused as to whether the prophet was having a real experience or if he was dreaming, but as the chapters went on, I understood better what was going on. Along the way, I noticed that the flashbacks in this book are few, but seamless.
At one point, I will admit that I thought about stopping. It was very intense, and I wondered just which way things were going. It was dark. It was gritty. If you like CSI: Anything, you won’t have a problem with it. But thankfully, Duran doesn’t wallow in the darkness. He pulls us through it, with his gripping main characters leading the way.
One of the main characters is a spunky grandma, a lot like the one I had, and exactly what I want to be like someday. I love the way Duran sets some of this story in an assisted living home (gone horribly wrong).
Zepheniah (“Zeph”), the prophet in this novel, is like a compilation of Old Testament prophets. And I love that Duran captures his prophet’s heart–he wants to help others, but he feels he brings doom to them sometimes. So he wants to ignore his gift. How many OT prophets felt that way, from time to time? Probably every single one of them.
There’s a good deal of bodysnatching going on in this story, by creatures who want to be “genetically human…metaphysically divine.” I won’t say more than that, but it injected an urgency into the story that pushed the reader along.
One of the main characters, a large Native American (correct me if you meant INDIA Indian, Mike), was a total enigma. You don’t know whether he’s trustworthy. At one point, he utters this cool quote to one of the main characters: “There is no such thing as just words.” Isn’t that the truth!? As a writer, I find this quote doubly poignant.
I couldn’t predict the ending, and I love that! And when I reached the last sentence, it was so satisfying that I literally sighed out loud. It was PERFECT. It’s the kind of sentence every author wishes he/she could end a book with.
I gave this book five stars on Goodreads–a rating I save for books I’d want to re-read someday. I think I’ve found my new spec. fic author of choice. I hope this book gets all the publicity it deserves. Impressive work, Mike.
****I’m very interested to know how many of my readers enjoy speculative (paranormal) fiction. I know my early blog readers do, since that’s what I wrote at that time (I’m revising OTHERWORLD now, peeps). Do you enjoy scary stuff, or do you avoid it?****