“And what you said about stories. I really get that now. You’d said they weren’t about filling time, entertainment. Not that that’s wrong, a story can be both meaningful and entertaining, you’d said, should be both for it to resonate. You told me that stories connected us, made us understand ourselves and each tear a little better. That stories made the world a better place because they are empathy engines.
I like that. Empathy engine. Vroom vroom.
It’s a noble cause, storytelling, you’d said. Noble work.
So, here I go being noble.”
“Suffer the little children to come unto me.”
17-year-old Kevin March is having a bad day. After being being expelled from marching band, he’s spending his before-school morning hours smoking out on a boulder that overlooks Lake Austin. All he has to do is smoke a bowl, chill a bit, and then take his little brother Johnny to school. Unfortunately for Kevin, none of that is going to happen.
Because the world is ending today.
“Within seconds, the sound became so loud that I coughed up the smoke and stood up on the boulder. Smoke wiped above my head. I faced west looking over Lake Austin… The sound came from the downriver direction, my left. And the sound now, though constant and siren-like, was the deep and mournful tone of what I thought were the sounds made by whales. Whales in extremis.
Whale sounds. In Austin, Texas.
More than whale sounds. Otherworldly sounds; countless whales not just moaning and sighing and singing, but crying out.
On this late October day, something has awoken and triggered a massive event. Every adult is dying horribly, suffocating from within. And those that don’t succumb that way, end their lives with smiles on their faces. Other than Kevin, his girlfriend Kodie, and his best friend Bastian, the only ones untouched by this wave of madness are the children.
But for how long? Because whatever has happened to the world, the answer centers on the suddenly aligned children, and Kevin realizes that the threat he experienced early that morning may be nothing compared to the threat posed by his little brother… and the other tens of thousands of children, suddenly aligned and trudging towards a new world order that has little room for Kevin and his friends.
In the 1920s, HP Lovecraft created his Cthulu mythos, positing a race of gargantuan supernatural beings, uncaringly wreaking havoc on humankind. These giant, shadowy creatures were so terrifying that even a glimpse of them could send a man to madness.
In The Late Bloomer, Mark Falkin has realized a modern-day Lovecraft tale. The threat comes not from space or from genetic engineering or anything man-made, but someplace deeper, someplace darker, and – even more unsettling – never completely defined. While frantically navigating this new world, the commonplace things Kevin knows take on a sinister and otherworldly meaning. And like Lovecraft’s work, something lurks just out of of reach, hidden in the periphery, barely glimpsed… more sensed than seen.
Told as a transcript of Kevin’s dictated journey through this changing world, Falkin adeptly weaves his tale of creeping terror, layering mundane detail after mundane detail into something pendulous and foreboding. With his skillful storytelling, he manages to keep his tale vast and claustrophobic at the same time. Yes, the world is wide open. No, they can’t get to it. They can barely even communicate outside of Austin, and even then, not for long. Just long enough to know that what’s happened there… is happening everywhere.
Combined with his Lovecraftian elements, Falkin also weaves in generous references to Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s classic story, giving his tale an even more chilling aspect. Like that story, it’s the unseen shape that guides this book, drawing us deeper and deeper into the frightening mystery that may lurk inside us already. Drawing on these disparate, yet somehow linked, sources as inspiration, he manages to bring these timeless and terrifying elements together into a truly unnerving piece.
Worth reading? Definitely.
VERDICT: FOUR-AND-A_HALF Colors Out of Space out of FIVE
Creative Team: Mark Falkin
Publisher: California Coldblood Books (Rare Bird Books)
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