Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Darkness on the Edge of Town

A while back, I was fortunate enough to win Brian Keene’s novella Darkness on the Edge of Town in a contest run on his message board. The beautiful, leather bound, boxed edition was originally published as one of 174 numbered editions (there were 26 lettered at a higher price, for a total print run of 200) at a selling cost of $175.00. It’s the best looking book I own, and I’m grateful for the contest, since I doubt I would have shelled out that much for a book.
Darkness on the Edge of Town, which shares a title and nothing more with a Bruce Springsteen song (as does Keene’s novel The Rising, come to think of it), is set in Keene’s (multi)universe of the Thirteen, the thirteen ancient entities that plague various incarnations of Earth. Here, the residents of a small Virginia town wake up one day to learn the world has gone dark around them. There is no sun, no stars, and only pitch blackness beyond the city limits. As far as they can tell, nothing exists beyond the boundaries of their town, and everyone who tries to enter the blackness vanishes for good, with only some screams to indicate what happens to them.

The story falls squarely into the realm of the post-apocalyptic tale, as it is more about the actions and reactions of the survivors than the calamity that has befallen them. Civilization vanishes quickly, and the immediate danger to the three survivors we follow is more from their fellow men than what waits outside. A very good story, and it ties in well with Keene’s overall mythos.
Darkness on the Edge of Town will be reprinted by Leisure in a very different form early in 2010. The basic story will be expanded rewritten and changed. A few people who ordered the original version have gotten worked up about this, as they feel it diminishes the value of the more exclusive version. I disagree with this. When I read something I like, I always hope it reaches the widest audience possible. Besides, the mass-market version will be different enough to constitute a separate work. I look forward to comparing the two.

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