Pros: Fascinating chain of events
Cons: Mark and Casey both sound younger than they are
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
D. Nathan Hilliard’s Nightwalk caught my attention and held it. In this horror tale Mark and his stepdaughter Casey are waiting for her mother, Stella to come home. But first, they realize there are at least ten police cars swarming a house down the block. After that, everything systematically fails: cell phone coverage, power. Perhaps someone sets off an EMP device, because soon everything stops working. Even cars. With the company of Ed, Casey’s long-time neighbor, Mark and Casey decide there’s no point waiting where they are, because Stella wouldn’t be able to get to them. All of the animals had fled to the west as the whole thing started, so they decide to do the same.
It doesn’t take long for our erstwhile companions to realize that something is terribly, terribly wrong. The streets are practically empty–this happened late at night and only those who were awake at the time can be roused. Strange creatures start to show up, just a few at first, then more and more. All of them seem intent on killing people. I think the line the characters walk–somewhere between learning to handle the impossible and falling totally apart–is handled extremely well. They do run into other people, and while Hilliard does his best work detailing his heroes, his work with side characters isn’t bad either.
My one real problem is that Casey does not come across to me as a 17-year-old, particularly at first. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by my friends’ well-mannered teenagers, but it’s been a few years since any of them would likely have come across like Casey. I guess Mark, who doesn’t always think before he speaks (and has no idea how to relate to teens), does have a tendency to say all the wrong things, which doesn’t help. (As a note since not everyone likes first-person PoV, Mark is the narrator of this tale.)
I like the overall style choices Hilliard made. The ‘feel’ of the place takes on a ‘bottom of the ocean floor’ vibe. Things feel thick and damp. The characters feel like they’re under a physical sort of pressure. And many of the monsters have a bioluminescence thing going on–a trait that makes sense for creatures that live in the depths.
When Mark finally finds it in him to try prayer, he catches the notice of a passing entity with its own agenda. It has an interest in helping Mark and Casey for its own reasons, but they still have a lot of danger to wade through.
If I say any more I’ll be in danger of spoiling too much. Instead I’ll just say that of the several Lovecraftian books I’ve read recently, this is my favorite. It really pulled me in, and I cared about what happened to most of the characters.