BOOK REVIEW: I Have the Sight
– By Zombie Rob
We go straight into it, with our hero Edward King knocking at a door, which is opened by a terrified mother. Now why is this poor woman terrified? Her wee daughter is being ragged all over the shop by an invading & possessing demon – and Eddie is here to kick his head in. Mr Edward King is an exorcist you see, undefeated and undaunted by these spiritual horrors. This one is different however, this one is a bad one. For once, even Eddie can feel the tendrils of fear penetrating his usually unshakeable confidence – he realises this possession may not only be unwinnable but it may cast him down down down for eternity into the searing flames of hell.
It’s here that the story goes to flashback & retrospective narrative to show us readers how Eddie arrived at this point, how he had this poisoned chalice thrust upon him, how he survived and why he’s dedicated his entire existence to vanquishing these evil spirits. He’s haunted by a creeping, insidious spirit he only really sees approaching ominously from a distance. This, understandably, drives him a little bonkers and of course no-one believes him so he finds himself on the side of a bridge, sincerely attempting to flee his torments. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that he survives this plunge (we already know that he survives anything he encounters within the retrospect) but he’s not right as a result, in a coma in fact. And it’s here that his problems really start as his subconscious really starts to mess with him and unlocks something primal and ancient, and as black as night….
This device of beginning in the present, then taking us back to “how it all began” is interesting in print, and more demanding than normal prose. It requires the reader to keep up with date-referencing and I lost track a couple of times I’ll be honest. The Walking Dead uses this all the time, for instance, but it’s so much easier for the audience to follow with visual points of reference, alternating patinas and tones of film, changing backgrounds etc. I’m not convinced that it works in this case though. Another aspect this affects is that it removes any jeopardy from the trials & tribulations from the past. Eddie goes through all sorts of chaos to wind up at the point where the book begins, though we know that the suicide attempt or any face offs with embodiments of evil will eventually end well because we’ve been told it will. This ratchets the tension right down, the pacing drops and we’re left with the bare bones of the story to keep us motivated to keep turning those pages. The author throws in very effective, incredibly visual set pieces – with witty exchanges between the hunter and his quarry. The violence is more physical than mental which brings it back up to pace again, though I’d add a cautionary note: there’s a very fine line between homage and enthusiastic fan-boy plagiarism, however innocent & well intended. At times, these scenes feel like screenplays, and very familiar screenplays at that. It must be very tempting for horror-fans-turned-writers NOT to include snippets and snatches of their favourite films of the genre they’re portraying but don’t assume I won’t spot these.
For the majority of the book, Eddie King is a self-absorbed, whining & directionless oaf – mooching off his best friend and continually moaning about his lot. The transition he goes through to become the mega demon hunter is great stuff, as we witness Eddie toughen up and quick, just in time to unleash Heaven on these satanic scamps. However, this does pose a problem – we’re meant to root for our hero, wish him well along his way, share in his hard fought triumphs but for the majority of the book, I just wanted to give him a kick up the arse. Rick Wood asks a lot of his reader but it’s for the best. Eddie is indeed a tit for a lot of our time together but he becomes so much more by the end. This is part of an expanding series and I’ve absolutely no doubt that Eddie King will be far preferable in the future, without returning to the self-involved whinging of the psychologically damaged pre-exorcising layabout.