"Black Light" Book Review
Written by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan & Stephen Romano
2011, 328 Pages, Fiction
Book released on October 5th, 2011
Despite numerous books about the subject, we don't know what happens to us when we die. There are various religious beliefs and scientific theories out there, but no one knows for sure. One thing that most life-after-death fiction tends to agree on is that if you die with some unfinished business, you don't jump over to the other side right away. You tend to linger. Fortunately, there are people like Buck Carlsbad out there who set to bust these ghosts in Black Light. Unfortunately for him, it's far from an easy or comfortable process.
Buck is one of a handful of people in the world that can see into the next one. He can only do this after he's ingested a spirit, or "mark" as he calls them. They range in size and shape, but they're rarely nice. When Buck's got a hold of a mark, he can see into the Black Light, a world where all dead things go. It's this vision that he's used for the past few years in an effort to find out the secrets of his past and what happened to his parents.
His world gets a whole lot crazier when he's hired by an eccentric billionaire to board the maiden voyage of a super train from LA to Las Vegas. It seems that the train's path goes right through a triangle of bad mojo and the boss wants to make sure that this ride goes nice and smooth. Things get bigger and badder as the trip continues and Buck goes deeper than he's ever gone. But what can he do with the information he pulls out of the Black Light?
The set up for Black Light is an interesting twist on the life after death mythos. It's a world where bizarre ghost hunters put these (often unwilling) spirits to rest at a personal cost to themselves. Buck can literally feel his life getting shorter each time he takes in a mark. It's a physical burden, but he does it to save the others around him. The authors go into great detail regarding the pain that flashes through Buck's body each time this happens. It makes it all the more real.
While I admire the protagonist's motivation and drive, he often comes off like a cocky asshole. The book opens up with Buck taking care of a mark that he calls a real "Billy Badass." The same term can be used to describe him throughout the novel. Everything he does, he does without thought as to what others think or how they might react and, of course, he's always right. This was kind of cool at first, but it quickly grew tiring and by the end of the story I almost wanted him to fail just to take him down a peg. Buck does go through some serious shit in Black Light and I think he is humbled somewhat, but not nearly enough.
The finale of the Black Light felt like it was thrown together quickly. It's actually kind of funny because the train where most of the book takes place travels at hundreds of miles per hour, yet that part of the story was decompressed and expanded upon greatly. Then the end of the book, after they've departed from the train and everyone is moving at a normal speed, felt rushed.
Black Light is far from a bad read. If you're picking this up, you should have an idea of what to expect within its pages as it's written by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano. Melton and Dunstan wrote the last four Saw movies, and in addition to being a talented artist, Romano co-wrote the teleplay for Masters of Horror: Incident on and off a Mountain Road (based on the short story by Joe Lansdale). These guys certainly know gruesome horror.