Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Among modern horror authors, few are as prolific as Brian Keene. He has been touted as the next Stephen King and the future of horror literature. His novels, such as Ghoul and The Rising, have been released to critical acclaim. In Darkness on the Edge of Town, Keene continues to write in an accessible and engrossing fashion that leaves the reader thirsting for more.
Comparisons to Stephen King are not unwarranted. The premise for Darkness on the Edge of Town is relatively similar to some of King’s works, including The Mist and Under the Dome. One day the inhabitants of Walden, Virginia wake-up to darkness. The world as they know it is gone. All communication outside the town of roughly 11,000 has ceased, and an inky blackness has settled across the sky and near outskirts. The residents do not know what has happened or why.
Sigils, or runes, stand along the edge of town keeping the blackness at bay. Those foolish enough to cross these protective barriers are never seen again. However, their screams echo back from the darkness. There is no escape.
Almost immediately, the fabric of society begins to tear apart. It is the apocalypse, a different kind of apocalypse but an apocalypse nonetheless. Resources begin to dwindle. Crime begins to rise. People begin to revert back to their more primal selves. What is causing them to behave this way? Is it the stress of the situation or something more sinister?
Brian Keene is known for the utilization of cosmic terror in his writing. Darkness on the Edge of Town is no exception. While I will refrain from specifically naming the elder thing in Darkness, this particularly entity has also appeared in the works Ramsey Campbell and Howard Phillips Lovecraft, among many others.
The biggest criticism of the book is its open-ended conclusion. There is no resolution. There isn’t even a true climax. The reader is left with their own understanding and interpretation of what happened at Walden, Virginia.
The parts are there, but this one is not a cohesive whole. While there is plenty to keep readers glued to the pages, Darkness on the Edge of Town fails to deliver the satisfactory ending. For fans of Keene, this probably matters very little. All of the little things are here, such as the pop culture references, the melancholy setting, and the homage to earlier horror writers. However, Darkness on the Edge of Town would not be the best recommendation for readers discovering Brian Keene for the first time. Try Ghoul or The Rising first to experience Keene at his best.