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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: Cracked Sky

2nd Feb, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Ben Eads novella Cracked Sky came to me in 2015 courtesy of Omnium Gatherum, but the only edition currently showing on Amazon is a 2022 release from Crystal Lake Publishing. It's described as 'A dark supernatural thriller about loss, grief, and family', which is fair enough. Let's put some flesh on those bones.

Stephen Morrison lost his arm in a car accident in which his daughter Allie was killed, while his marriage to Shelley is hanging on by the skin of its teeth. Stephen has an unusual tingling where his arm used to be and starts to move Allie's old toy building blocks with his mind. The blocks spell out messages such as DADDY HELP ME. Stephen believes Allie's spirit is in trouble and needs his help. Darrell Peakman, the drunk driver responsible for the car accident, is holding Allie hostage in a dream world where he is all powerful. To save his daughter Stephen must enter that world and challenge Peakman, but to do so he has to die.

I have very mixed feelings about this novella. Eads is good at showing the pain of loss from a violent accident, with Stephen's suffering coming over well and the way in which it affects everyone around him, especially Shelley and his brother Josh, each of whom is also suffering in their own way. His depiction of Darrell Peakman is also excellent, a mad hill-billy with occult powers, as sinister as he is risible, the sneering face of madness. And the reality in which Stephen becomes trapped, a blossom of Darrell's poisoned mind, is a playground of atrocities, each more sickening than the last and giving the reader horror fare to satisfy the most jaded anticipations. Reading these scenes and the events that led up to them I was reminded of 2000 film The Cell. Where Cracked Sky falls apart for me is in the theoretical backdrop and motivation. I was never really convinced as to why Darrell wanted Allie, or why he needed Stephen dead. And the way in which Shelley helps Stephen to save Allie seemed hard to credit, both as regards the physical aspect and the time allowed. It didn't quite make sense to me, though whether that was owing to the author or down to my own lack of understanding I can't really say. In the end Cracked Sky was a bumpy ride through some impressive scenery and with genuine emotions, but with the destination and the reason for the journey unclear.





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