Friday, May 22, 2015

Paul Elard Cooley's THE BLACK: ARRIVAL

I enjoyed the hell out of my good friend* Paul Elard Cooley's The Black: A Deep Sea Tale, his debut in the aquatic horror/adventure genre, and so my expectations for this sidequel, in which a group of scientists on the mainland must grapple with the same creature that terrorized the oil rig in the first book, were high.

Readers of that earlier book will already know what to expect here. Cooley has nailed the technique of bogging the reader down in technical/scientific minutiae to heighten the tension of what we all know is coming, which means that, yes, the first third or so of the narrative is a bit of a slow burn as we get to know a new set of characters and their hopeful, happy little world before havoc is wrought upon it and them, and the novel explodes into an action-packed, yet claustrophobic, thrill-ride.

Again, some readers might get a bit impatient with this, if they are not immediately captivated by the relative novelty of the setting. I was captivated; the behind-the-scenes look at an industry on which we all depend, I found, is intrinsically interesting as well as providing the perfect backdrop for what is at bottom an animal vengeance tale.

We don't learn a whole lot more about the monster, except perhaps that it is a bit more capable than it had appeared in the first book. No one gets much chance to study it while it chases brilliant scientists around a quarantined facility. Perhaps more knowledge is forthcoming in the third novel, but perhaps not: knowledge can blunt the edge of fear, and stories like this work best when fear is sharp and vicious.

As it is, we do encounter a sort of Weeping Angels diminution here, as the monster takes rather a familiar form for scenes of open pursuit that, while tense and adrenaline-eliciting, are not as creepy as the slower and more insidious flow of the entity that characterized our first encounter with it. A certain type of reader (and I am that type) might get distracted by questions of how an entity that spent untold eons as a puddle of goo under incredible pressure at the bottom of the ocean knew how to [REDACTED], for instance.

Fortunately, though, the characters are real enough, sympathetic enough, and resourceful enough to distract from such distractions, to pull the reader back into caring about their immediate and horrible predicament. Time to wonder about that stuff later. We need to ESCAPE!!!!

And, too, as with the first novel, which hinted obliquely at the parallel horrors unfolding in this one, The Black: Arrival hints obliquely at parallel horrors occurring elsewhere in the screwed, screwed city of Houston that we'll no doubt observe in the next book. Oil: The Revenge has not yet spent its fury. And Cooley, as he always proclaims, does not believe in happy endings.

I can't freaking wait!

*Once again, since Cooley is my friend, I do feel I should issue a bias alert, but just in case you think my judgment of this work clouded, you can head on over to Paul's site and listen to the audio version of this or his earlier book for free.

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