The Face of Twilight
Introduction by Mark Morris
(PS Publishing, 132 pages, signed (by Mark Samuels), numbered, limited
edition paperback, 1-904619-59-2 (paperback) £10/ $ 18. Also available
as signed (by Mark Samuels and Mark Morris), numbered, limited edition
hardback, ISBN 1-904619-60-6 (hardcover) £ 25 / $ 45. Published
good news for every reader (including myself) who got enchanted by Mark
Samuels' remarkable collection The White Hands and other weird tales
is that he's back with his debut novella.
The bad news is that , at least in my way of thinking, the novella
is a disappointment.
Ivan Gilman is a writer with a pronounced inclination for the booze,
seeking inspiration for his third novel but actually just scribbling
down notes here and there, mostly in his favourite pub.
Recently moved into a new flat, Gilman is made uneasy by the presence
of a strange character living in the floor below, a certain Mr. Stymm.
The enigmatic Stymm gets apparently involved in the disappearance (which
will turn out to be a murder) of a woman occasionally met by Gilman
in the usual pub.
A series of puzzling events will lead to the discovery of a terrible
truth: the world is being taken over by a bunch of "necromorphs".
I won't add further details in order not to spoil the (few) surprises
that the story has in store.
The novella confirms once again that Samuels is a great writer, endowed
with an elegant, effective and captivating writing style. He's a master
in creating dark and disturbing atmospheres and in eliciting a sense
of mystery with a few sentences (an outstanding example is the passage
where he evokes the disused stations of the London underground).
But when we come to the story itself then it's a different matter entirely.
The plot , rather ordinary at the best of times, becomes embarrassingly
implausible on more than one occasion.
Moreover, once the core of the storyline is given away, the following
events are more than predictable and the whole narrative runs out of
Samuels is prodigious in managing to maintain the alienating, claustrophobic
mood surrounding Gilman's desperate attempts to restore the appearance
of "normality" and to preserve his own mental balance, but,
as the story goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to the reader
to keep up his suspension of disbelief and, more simply, his attention
to what's taking place on the page.
So, I'll stop beating around the bush and tell clearly and plainly
the naked truth: the book is boring.
I'm sure other reviewers will rave about The Face of Twilight
and I won't be surprised should the novella be nominated for an award
or two or even get one.
As far as I'm concerned I'll be patiently waiting for Samuels' next
book, hoping that in the future his enormous talent will be serving
at last a passable plot.