Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Succumbing To Gravity by Richard Farnsworth

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect when I cracked this one open. I tend to find that fiction that focuses on angels, demons, and horror do one of two things. They either re-invent something that didn't need to be re-invented, actively deterring the reader from getting past the first act in the book, or it takes all of the major conventions of the genre and plays them out in a well ordered way - entertaining the reader, but ultimately leaving no distinct impressions that can be seen to advance the genre.

Succumbing To Gravity does neither. In fact, I'd say that this book is a complete standout in terms of this theme. Farnsworth not only grabs the reader with his eloquent and accomplished writing style, but he also takes you on the type of trip that is sorely needed in horror these days.

Greg used to be an angel, but that was an eternity ago. Back when he was Araqiel, part of the celestial chorus. Back before he gave in to his temptations. Before he fell. Now he roams the wet streets of a hopeless city, feeding his addictions and punishing himself for sins that cannot be forgiven. But when a desperate girl and a host of vengeful demons cross his path, Greg must choose between redemption and damnation. For him, the two may not be so different.

I'm no stranger to dark fiction with a religious theme. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's my preferred sub-genre of horror fiction. The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, and various others, are books that I consider to be my favorites. If you dig deep enough, you'll even find a review of Dark Sacrament - a book detailing to accounts of 2 priests and their "adventures" in exorcism. The idea that there are things out there - steeped in faith and believing - that are out to get us, is an incredibly versatile and terrifying prospect.

Farnsworth uses the above mentioned themes in order to achieve something awesome, investing the reader in the exploits of a fallen angel and making us actually give a damn. The main character is both charismatic and pathetic, eliciting a one-two combo of sympathy and disgust. Personally, I found him to be most satisfying. The one liners in his dialogue are delivered beautifully, providing the reader an opportunity to laugh at the same time as being completely concerned by the harrowing situation that Greg is currently in. Greg (a heroin addicted fallen angel) is a fantastic example of how to write the sort of anti-hero that the comic world, and most detective fiction is completely reliant on. It's a relief to read someone like him.

The story itself is very tightly written and pulled off with a seasoned expertise expected from authors with multiple offerings. The fact that this is Farnsworth's first outing is almost unbelievable. The only thing I feel I should warn readers about is the multiple angles that this story is presented in. Starting off in First Person, the reader may well be a little put off by the sudden switch to Third Person narrative a chapter or two later. The back and forth/1st to 3rd switching happens throughout the novel, but very much to it's benefit. The ability to not only lose one's self in the descriptive beauty in the 3rd person perspective is great, but to also know exactly what's going on in the main character's head is very satisfying. I wouldn't usually entertain (or even suggest) the use of perspective hopping, but this book is obviously an example of how to do it right.

Another high point to the descriptive quality is Farnsworth's ability to envision scenes of beauty as well as fleshing out some of the most brutal scenes of violence I've read yet. They're pretty few and far between, but man...when Farnsworth wants to get visceral, he does so with an intensity capable of slapping a beaming smile on the face of most seasoned gore hounds. The beauty of the scenes coupled with the sadness and desperation of the main character's situation plays well against the few scenes of utter destruction and gore. In essence, this novel has something for absolutely everyone. Actionwise, Farnsworth's fight coreography is second to none. When the fist start flyin', you better watch out.

Succumbing To Gravity is a story that pushes some serious boundaries in the realm of horror fiction - never really settling in as the standard fare, but also fitting in quite nicely. Farnsworth's debut novel should be on everyone's "to be read" pile, if not already safely tucked away on the bookshelf for repeated reading.

You can check out Richard Farnsworth's website here, and order a copy of Succumbity To Gravity on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle editions.

Also check out Reliquary Press at their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. And remember: buy direct from the source and keep the small press alive.

PBH.

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