A review of A Place in The Dark
It’s not often that a vampire tale such as this transcends the background detritus of navel-gazing romance so prevalent in the genre, but A Place in The Dark, from author Julian M. Miles, packs a real punch and doesn’t hold back. If you’re sick of current vampire fiction and related spinoff novels, this is most definitely the book for you, as it really sets the genre to rights.
A Place In The Dark follows the life and times of Rafe, a nightwalker of ancient repute and many hidden names and histories, revealed slowly and in scattering form throughout the book. We start out and he’s lost in the woods, a mysterious hound accompanying him, and no memory of his life before. Then there’s a cart, armed bandits and the plot very quickly accelerates when he meets nightwalkers inside the cart and realises he is one of them, and has been for quite some time…
The format is that of a diary memoir, and it feels like listening to a firelight tale. This format really helps to keep the tension high throughout as needless things can be skipped – the narrative goes from one adventure or iconic event straight into the next, or has longer events broken up by interludes and detractions into what a particular word or phrase means. This is oftentimes quite necessary, because the author has properly constructed his own world, replete with language and customs. It is a fantastic thing to see a vampire novel that puts such commendable energy into incorporating the Romanian language into their unique terminology, instead of succumbing to the Western idea of ‘Dracula fiction’. The myths of nightwalkers existed in Eastern Europe long before that particular 15th Century voivode who inspired Bram Stoker even existed, and the terminology pays homage to that fact.
Here at Renegade Revolution we recently got the privilege of reading the second edition, which contains even more information and nice little extras from different characters that tie into the main narrative nicely. The whole novel, especially the later parts, traverses the globe and provides a nice commentary on human history and technological developments. It feels like some important points were made regarding data farming and surveillance – the whole context of which changes when looking through the eyes of one who regards humans as necessary fodder.
So there are many high points for mythology nerds, but it would be amiss to continue without mentioning the fact this book is hands down one of the most inventive and gory works of horror fiction I’ve read recently. Too many other novels do struggle with making grimness seem truly grim and frightening. But here we have no-holds-barred scenes of carnage and torture, even upping the ante on badass shows like Hellsing. I would dearly love to reveal some of the more vivid scenes, but these are best left to experience on one’s own. Suffice to say, the mechanics of having some of the iconic vampiric powers, like transformation, are thoroughly explored.
From a human perspective, the central character Rafe may seem incredibly evil, morally sunken and depraved. But taking into account his nightwalker culture, he’s a far more interesting and multifaceted character than he might at first seem. It’s not a simple matter of asking whether he’s a hero or an anti-hero. He’s subject to his own survival instinct and the desire to help those he cares about, and makes tactical decisions, but is also subject to emotions like rage or vengeance.
I would not want to meet him in a dark alley at night, but equally I can imagine that the average farm animal would not wish to meet me, a staunch carnivore, either. We’re a totally different class from each other, but if from the same species and in the same world, I imagine Rafe would be quite interesting to talk to.
All in all, Julian Miles has created something refreshing and intense, with a real sense of history and grandeur as a constant backdrop. It is well worth the adventure to invite this particular story in.
The second edition of A Place In The Dark will be available from Lizards of the Host Publishing this month.
We have previously reviewed Miles’ space war saga The Borsen Incursion.