Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Disappeared by David B Silva

This was my fist foray into the fiction of David B Silva, an author now somewhat of a veteran in horror circles. Without hearing even a sliver of the story The Disappeared was chosen by this reviewer purely for its enigmatic illustration. If there is one thing we all know the small press does well it’s displaying aesthetic covers with imaginative paintings vastly more appealing to the dark fiction enthusiast than their large publishing equivalents. What we have on offer here is a big thriller stepped in the sinister world of unexplained medical mysteries and shadowy government corporations hell-bent on secrecy.

Ten years ago Teri Knight and her husband went through the crippling effects of losing their only son Gabriel after he ventured to the local park one day and never returned. With no eye-witnesses and no clues pertaining to his mysterious vanishing, this lack of closure or any answers at all results in their divorce and Teri is sentenced to a life of estrangement and despair. On one rain-swept evening many years later Gabe suddenly returns home in the company of an unknown woman. But this Gabe cannot be her son … for the boy at the front door hasn’t aged a day. He is eternal, frozen in time – and now Teri has to suspend her disbelief if she is to unlock the revelations at hand. Enlisting the help of an old ally (Walter) who also collaborated in the search effort for Gabriel previously, Teri begins to unravel an intricate web that sees a family physician at the centre of the nightmare – and also discovers Gabe isn’t the only child who fell victim to a conspiracy where science tackled the dark heart of mortality and tried to find a solution for one of humanity’s oldest follies: death itself.

Written during the nineties, this is the kind of formula pertinent to novels of that era. Running like an undercurrent through the prose there is a distinct Dean Koontz flavor … reminiscent of one of the many books he penned under the pseudonym Leigh Nichols. (Think The Key to Midnight or The House of Thunder). Taking off my professional voice for a moment, I will just admit that I enjoyed those novels immensely. They don’t pretend to be anything than what they are intended: maps of intent where the good guys are good and the bad ones are simply nasty. There’s an everyman quality to the method that’s pure entertainment … and the story at the heart of The Disappeared has a safe and homely feel like a good recipe.

There are small weaknesses – mainly that of the perplexing reaction of a family doctor when confronted with the presence of Gabriel for the first time – his inability to notice something different about the child and voice this concern to the mother is something that is never fully addressed. Another plot strand involving an individual that Walter is tracking doesn't quite come to fruition in just the right manner and leaves a lingering question mark. (Although I have a feeling these are small narrative puzzles that a second reading could possibly cure).

Here, David B Silva has concocted a workable thriller that harkens back to the suspense of a more culpable time in human history. My first title from Dark Regions Press – they have created a slick and worthy edition to hold in the hands. This is just the beginning, and I look forward to becoming acquainted with David’s impressive dark fiction resume in the future. 

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