"The Night Parade" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Kensington Publishing
Written by Ronald Malfi
2016, 384 pages, Fiction
Released on July 26th, 2016
Up until The Night Parade, my only experience with Ronald Malfi's work was a few of his novellas that I had read from my DarkFuse subscription – Skullbelly, A Shrill Keening, and The Mourning House – all of which I enjoyed. So it was only a matter of time before I read a full-length novel of his. Heck, I had already bought Little Girls in preparation, but have not yet had time to dive into it. So when The Night Parade came round, I decided that I had waited long enough and jumped into it. I wish I had done so sooner.
If were in charge of the elevator pitch for The Night Parade, it would be, "The Stand meets Firestarter with a little of Swan Song." The book centers on David Arlen and his daughter Ellie as they make their way cross country after a plague known as Wanderer's Folly ravages the world. Not everyone dies, but a good portion of the population does, and Ellie holds the key to the cure. However, David isn't going to let the government poke and prod his daughter with needles, so if he can just get to his step-brother's place, maybe they can make a new life.
The Night Parade has all the elements in a novel that I love; apocalyptic (or might as well be), father (or mother) and child against the world, and a kid who's either special in intelligence or has an untapped power they are learning to control. In this case, Ellie is both smart as a whip and is has something rather unique flowing into her veins where she can take both fear and pain from a person...or expel it. Like Mr. Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that."
Like most well written apocalyptic books (or well made movies), Malfi wisely doesn't concentrate on the sickness. Sure, he gives us enough to go on – how it started, how people reacted, the symptoms, etc. – but he knows that the story isn't Wander's Folly, but instead it's about the survivors and their struggles. And as we follow David and Ellie on their journey, we find that their battles aren't with the disease, but rather with their fellow man, be it the jerks they run into or the doctors trying to catch them. It should really come as no surprise that when the world collapses, there's a lot more assholes to deal with, and the father and daughter meet their share.
I love this book. From the first page, I was invested. Malfi expertly develops believable characters, none being over-the-top. A perfect example of this is Ellie. She is gifted in both intelligence and a special ability, and both are underplayed. Well, the latter does come out once or twice in a delightful display of power, but this skill she has is not used as a crutch. Also, she is definitely smarter than the average kid, but this too is not overt. Never once did I feel that she is too smart. Everything is done in such a way that if were to happen in real life, and Ellie were to exist in real life...I could accept it.
I am also a big fan of how bleak The Night Parade is. I wouldn't say it's a downer, or even emotionally draining (although it is in parts). It's all so very realistic. There are some very bad people in this book, but you get the notion that they are this way because of circumstance more than this is how they were before Wanderer's Folly hit. And that's important. That's what makes it realistic. It's not going to be sunshine, rainbows and unicorns when the world's population is dying off. Granted, it's not all going to be terrible, but it's not going to be a walk in the park, either.
The Night Parade is real-life horror. The only monsters in this book are the human ones, but those are the most terrifying, aren't they? It's a great read, solid through and through, and will no doubt have a place on my "Favorites of 2016" list at the end of the year. This is my first full-length novel by Ronald Malfi, but it certainly won't be my last.