As the Earth continues to fall into destruction the young Nathan Pierce and his allies race to rescue his sister Daisy from her immanent public execution. The president of what’s left of the United States is grabbing all the power she can, as the malevolent alien force Legion, along with their demonic allies, continue to transform the Earth into a violent, dark and frigid world.
The saga of Black Earth continues on in the third and penultimate in the series, Dark Masquerade. Like the previous novels, Alderman has several story arcs that run alongside each other. Most of the characters in these storylines cross paths at some points, while other characters seem to be waiting to meet until the final story in the saga. Whereas many books that attempt this sort of divided attention have a difficult time maintaining either focus or interest in the story, Dark Masquerade (and indeed the entire series so far) does not. Alderman is very skilled at creating unique and engaging storylines through the world of his stories. The reader has no problems keeping these storylines and character separated, while keeping the overall story moving forward. This book was a little slow in the beginning, but picks up and explodes after the first few chapters.
The characters of Dark Masquerade are equally engaging, and Alderman gives us a great variety of believable and relatable characters. From the chain-smoking ex-timeline cop Macayle, to the self-described sexual predator Cynthia Ruin (who in reality is a terribly broken person), the characters contain a great deal of depth and the reader readily identifies with them. There’s a few two-dimensional characters in the story, but most of them don’t stick around (or survive) for too long to really matter. The one exception to this generality is the president, Amanda Stone. She’s a “two-and-a-half-dimensional” character, that I wish was fleshed out a little better, but fortunately is the exception, not the rule.
In summary, Black Earth: Dark Masquerade is a piece of well-written, enjoyable, and often profound story of science fiction art. Alderman writes as a Christian, and there are certainly Christian themes in his stories, but they are a part of the story, rather than a sermon unnaturally inserted into the story. Some of his characters are believers, some aren’t, but all of them are flawed in their own ways. And unlike so much of “Christian Fiction” (which I wouldn’t do the disservice of labeling this book as) Alderman presents life as it is. Amidst the towering demons, the vicious Legion force and systematic destruction of Earth, the characters curse, use sex to get what they want, smoke, fear, laugh, cry and make horrible choices . . . just like in real life . . . just like in the world most people live in. So, even though portals are opening, hulking beasts are consuming people by the truckloads, and the sun is all but blotted out from the face of the earth, David Alderman paints the picture of a world that all of us recognize as real.
Dark Masquerade sets the stage for the final book and gives the reader a reasonable ending for a second-to-last series book. Any fan of science fiction, fantasy, supernatural drama or apocalyptic stories really ought to read this fast-pace, and engaging series.
Releases Wednesday, July 25th