THE DARK - David Gatward - ****
Published by Hodder Children’s Books – paperback – out now £5.99.
THE DARK is the second instalment in David Gatward’s DEAD horror trilogy aimed at young adults. The first, THE DEAD, was a rollicking tale that was over too quickly. With his second book Gatward has really hit his stride, opening up the macabre world he created in the first to produce a more expansive, assured and better-paced adventure.
The story follows on directly from the end of THE DEAD, with the hero, Lazarus Stone, breaching the veil that separates the world of the living from that of the dead in search of his lost father. Along for the ride is Stone’s horror-obsessed school friend Craig, who acts as a stand-in for the reader and as a much-needed comic foil. Their quest takes sinister and often violent turns and includes a road trip with an alcoholic angel.
THE DARK improves upon the solid foundations of THE DEAD in almost every way: the sometimes clunky dialogue of the first book is much improved, the characters are deepened and a satisfying climax sets up the final instalment well. The story is also pleasingly gruesome without being too gross for younger readers.
Gatward’s world of flayed demons and twisted religious imagery is clearly influenced by early Clive Barker, but there are also nods to the work of Italian splatter legend director and screenwriter Lucio Fulci. In particular, traces of Fulci’s film THE BEYOND can be found in THE DARK’s realm of the dead and its rotting and malevolent inhabitants.
If for nothing else, Gatward deserves kudos for raising the spectre of a man with three entries in the DPP’s list of video nasties in a book intended for teenagers.
THE DARK is a gripping story that also successfully wets the reader’s appetite for the third and final instalment, THE DAMNED, due in April.
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