Review: “The Black: Arrival,” Paul E. Cooley

Pros: LOTS of tension
Cons: Still that one niggly lost plot thread…
Rating: 4 out of 5

Paul E. Cooley’s The Black: Arrival (Volume 2) occurs semi-simultaneously with the original The Black. In that story, a sample barrel of the oil they were drawing from was sent to the home office while they continued to study it up close. Naturally, that crew discovered not an unusual oil sample, but rather an unusual and terrifying new creature. That barrel was carrying the very same murderous creature when it reached the folks back home–only there’s a lot more for it to feed on, making it much more deadly. Before long the lab is under quarantine, but it’s too late for the local hospital when a team member becomes sick and goes there.

 

I’m not sure how the CDC expects a quarantine to work on a creature that can devour (and add to its mass) anything that isn’t metal or glass. After it gets out at the lab, it eats everything. Sheetrock, carpets, rubber gaskets, plastic bags… people. And it’s gaining in size quite quickly. I still don’t understand how one (potentially major) detail went missing early in book one and is still a problem here. Early on in book one it’s discovered that metal the creature has touched becomes brittle–but only to other metal. I.e., you’d have to whack it with a crowbar instead of a plastic shovel. I can’t understand why this detail was introduced and then never really used again.

I like the characters. It’s a relatively small set, because these are the folks who promised to stay in the lab all weekend in order to do a rush job identifying and testing the contents of the barrel. It doesn’t help, of course, that Kate’s daughter Maeve is joining them because her feckless father couldn’t take her for the weekend (apparently not unusual).

The tension is fantastic in this tale. I sat glued to my seat. Trying to hide from, and later battle, the monster is incredibly difficult and dangerous.

As a small side note: I could stand to not hear characters hissing at each other for a long time. Unless snakes are involved. Every writer, I think, has at least one overused word or noise or event that keeps showing up. Kind of a subconscious element of the author’s style.

Oh! I almost forgot. I love this book just for the euphemism, “pickle tickle”. I laughed out loud.

The security at the lab is not nearly as good as it seems. When a delivery driver can bully someone into letting them into the building you’ve got an issue. Also, while halogen light (or natural daylight) seems to repel these things, the monster seems to be growing more and more intelligent–so why doesn’t it just take out the source of electricity? Should be child’s play for the thing by now.

My favorite details are the great characters (the amount of stereotype-ism is nice and low), the changing nature of the beast, and the rapidly growing tension later on in the tale. I had so much fun with this book that I don’t mind the small problems in it.

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