After reading author Douglas Clegg's Bram Stoker Award-winning short story collection The Nightmare Chronicles, I was eager to read a novel by him. But where to start? As luck sometimes has it, that decision was made for me.
In the interest of keeping up with news about Clegg, I signed up for his email newsletter and found that Dark of the Eye was being serialized within its pages. Not the most ideal circumstances in which to read a novel, I'll admit -- I'm one of the old-fashioned type that still likes to turn pages -- but it is also an idea whose time has come. It's merely an updating of the old Dickensian model of magazine serialization -- and he was, by most accounts, a rousing success. Even now, authors are catching on to the concept that the best way to promote their work is by giving something away for free. It keeps us coming back and, therefore, keeps their names fresh in our minds for when we go book shopping.
Dark of the Eye, first published in 1994, is now out of print but still available from online booksellers. Still, it's fairly rare, which makes it the perfect candidate for this sort of promotion; it is a really good book that isn't easily available anywhere else. It almost makes it seem like a sort of discovery!
In it, we're dropped right in the middle of an ongoing story as a one-eyed girl named Hope Stewart gains an awesome healing power that some people -- like her father, the mysterious Dr. Robert Stewart -- want to preserve, while others -- like Special Projects' Stephen Grace (aka "Shadow"), a government assassin -- want to destroy. Hope's mother, Kate, however, doesn't trust Robert and runs away with Hope, straight into the middle of Empire, California, a former boomtown that now seems only to serve as the residence for a motley crew of supporting characters -- including the strange "family" that goes by the name of Cthonos.
A relatively early novel in the Clegg bibliography, Dark of the Eye does not exhibit signs of the author's later confidence in his abilities, but does showcase his seemingly intuitive knowledge of when something works. The beginning is a little confusing because while we're trying to learn about the characters, they're taking off somewhere else. It's like a chase trying to get to know them. After the fast-paced exposition, the story takes time getting to where it's going though the pace never lets up. Once the climax is set in motion, however, the surprises come fast and furious as the novel barrels to its conclusion. (I carried the printed pages with me so as not to miss a opportunity to read it.) It ends somewhat abruptly, but is suspenseful and engrossing the entire time. The characters are absolutely fascinating and Clegg fills this book with enough idiosyncracies to fill a series of novels and a circus freak show.
Based on the evidence of Dark of the Eye in addition to The Nightmare Chronicles, Douglas Clegg is now on my Favorite Authors list.