Darker Angels Hardcover – Jan 28 1998
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Somtow's latest is one of his most accomplished novels, and it is set in a slightly altered nineteenth-century U.S. in which zombies, werewolves and other were-creatures, and possession by evil spirits are as real as Abraham Lincoln or Walt Whitman (who are major characters). The plot, though too complex to be concisely summarized, involves a multiple-viewpoint narrative and the concept of wandering souls and those who can see and wish to control such entities. Although the number of historical and fictional characters is sufficiently large and complex to make one wish for a cast list, well-informed readers will be gratified to see that Somtow has done his folkloric and historical homework and then written with care, producing a book of several satisfactions. Occasionally slowly paced and featuring adult themes that may put off young readers, Darker Angels is a highly worthwhile read for serious dark-fantasy fans. Roland Green
From Kirkus Reviews
More supernatural horror from Somtow (Vanitas, 1995, etc.), whose passion for splatterpunk effects have, thankfully, cooled of late. In 1865, when New York widow Paula Grainger goes to view the body of assassinated Abraham Lincoln, poet Walt Whitman makes her acquaintance. With Walt is a young soldier, Zachary Brown; together with Paula's eerie black servant, Phoebe, the three begin to relate the exploits of Paula's late husband, Aloysius. Certain African women, it seems, can transform themselves into leopards. Phoebe, whom Aloysius won in a poker game, is one such ``darker angel,'' supposedly capable of redeeming her people through the power of song. Zachary calmly continues to speak of wartime atrocities, supernatural events, his meeting with Walt Whitman (then a nurse in a hospital), and how his comrade Kaz was brought back form the dead by Joseph, an old one-eyed black shaman. Old Joseph's assistant was a young white boy, Jimmy Lee Cox; continuing the stories-within- stories format, Jimmy describes Joseph's experiences in New Orleans and during the slave revolt in Haiti. Joseph's final intent was to raise the black soldiers killed in the Civil War from the dead. Meanwhile, Aloysius's diaries reveal his futile attempts to reanimate Paula's dead children. Unfortunately, the ending, involving Lincoln and his sons, implodes through oversentimentality. Knotty, dark, nasty in places, and cleverly constructed, but diffuse and lacking propellant. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
She meets Walt Whitman and his companion Zachary Brown. The two males, along with Paula's servant Phoebe, tell her a strange story starring her late husband, Aloysius and similar beings. Aloysius apparently won the African Phoebe in a card game. The woman is one of the DARKER ANGELS with the ability to change into a leopard. In spite of having attained the mysterious Phoebe, Aloysius failed in his efforts to reanimate Paula's dead children. However, the one-eyed shaman Joseph apparently tasted success as a necromancer who ultimately planned to raise the dead black Civil War soldiers.
DARKER ANGEL is a metaphysical horror tale that takes readers on a dark tour on nineteenth century America. The story line switches narrators, giving it a short story feel inside a featured length novel. This technique will divide readers as some will find it distracting from the main story line while others will feel the subplots have an opportunity to fully develop. The historical side of the tale shows that S.P. Somtow did his homework so that his supernatural creatures fit in a world populated by authentic known people of the era. If you prefer non-stop action, this tale is a bust. If you relish an eerie surreal novel, this tale is a cause to celebrate.
It is perhaps appropriate that a novel about zombies in antebellum America be as lifeless and dead as this one. But seeing the aptness is not the same as being entertained or enlightened. Somtow's primary gimmick - having a character within the story told by the narrator tell a long story, in which another story is told by another character, in which another story is told by a character in THAT story - quickly becomes tedious and confusing. If you like that sort of thing read Melville, who can pull it off with artistry and subtlety. Somotow just doesn't have the chops.
Add to all this Somtow's preoccupation with male anatomy and necrophilia and you have a book about as appealing as poodle lasagne.
I'd suggest you give it a miss, or wait until you stumble across it in a used bookstore.
At about 200 pages less than MOON DANCE, DARKER ANGELS is in many ways the more successful novel. I must also note that it contains one of the most successful uses of a non-linear narrative I have yet to encounter.
This is not a book for anyone looking for a light and easy horror/dark fantasy read. It deals unflinchingly with war, slavery and homosexuality. But I highly recommend it for readers who aren't afraid to brave the darkness to find the riches therein. DARKER ANGELS may be a work of fiction, but there is more truth in its pages than in many non-fiction history books.
Most recent customer reviews
Unexpectedly, I found myself drawn into the tapestry of Somtow's multi-narratated story. One difficulty was trying to keep track of who exactly was telling the story in the... Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2002 by Logan Daugherty
It would be easy to say this book is simply Somtow doing for the Civil War what he did for the West in "Moon Dance. Read morePublished on May 4 1999
A Civil war fantasy about slavery, racism, class structures and power (of all sorts) revolving around Phoebe, a woman who can change into a leopard and believes herself to be... Read morePublished on Jan. 16 1999