As a horror fan, there is nothing I enjoy more than discovering a (to me) unknown author in the genre. It was with this that I approached James Herbert’s “The Dark”, the basic premise being a darkness descends that begins to drive people mad. There are other factors of course, a psychic investigator whose mentor might or might not be playing a part. The protagonist provides us a rather trite character, haunted by his past, strong yet fragile. Bishop provides us nothing that we have not seen previously in the genre and his character is just not terribly interesting. A paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, due to his family having been victimized by a charlatan. Instead of making him seem conflicted or troubled, it just makes him seem like a hypocrite. I found it impossible to summon up positive qualities for the character, who does not develop or change during the story.
The rest of the cast is lackluster and does not provide anything that the horror genre hasn’t provided previously. An elderly psychic investigator aids Bishop and has possible ties to the epidemic psychosis. The man’s assistant is lovely, young and of course has a dark past to match Bishop’s. The problem is aside from a few revelations, the characters themselves do not change. There is no point in reading the book that I stopped and thought “I hope he makes it through this”. The novel lacks any truly frightening moments, even though an omnipresent darkness waiting to descend on the world. A darkness that sings out to every dark urge that mankind possess, could be truly terrifying. This however is bogged down by unremarkable characters, vague explanations and deus ex machina ending.
I’m certainly not writing Herbert off and will be reading more of his books. I’ll keep everyone posted.