Friday, March 11, 2016

Falls the Shadow by: Daniel O'Mahony: Psychopaths, Sociopaths, and All Up the Garden Path

Falls the Shadow is very odd in that it pretty much follows a similar plotline to the previous novel Strange England.  The novel employs the same tactics of putting in gory and disturbing imagery and scenarios meant to catch you off guard.  The novel also follows the same general plot line of Strange England with the Doctor, Benny and Ace ending up in an old house being terrorized by creatures from another dimension.  Now where Strange England failed in making itself be anything resembling a good story (I gave the thing a 0/100 and that was being generous), Falls the Shadow is surprisingly a pretty good novel.  Daniel O’Mahoney gives us a pretty decently structured story that just puts the characters through the ringer while introducing interesting concepts and plot developments to keep you interested in the novel.


Falls the Shadow begins with the TARDIS being dragged down to Shadowfall, a huge Victorian manor, and loses power while inside the house two pan dimensional beings called Gabriel and Tanith who make themselves to be God as the owner of the house is continuing the Master’s experiments with TOMTIT from The Time Monster.  The horror of the novel comes in with the warping of the house as rooms stretch and rearrange themselves leading to paranoia and there is danger all over the place.  The entire story reads like a gothic horror novel and those aspects of the story I honestly love as the character drama is on top form.  There is a problem in that the story is way too long for its own good clocking in at 356 pages it just has one of the draggiest middle sections I’ve had to slog through as the grotesque imagery has stopped and it’s a lot of technobabble.  We don’t care how everything is working, we will take it as it is and just move on to the plot.


The characters in the novel were done really well.  Starting with the Doctor, here you get to see his anger when he realizes that the TARDIS is dying and he needs to try and save it.  He lets out his fury and in his own right gets put through the ringer.  While O’Mahony barely explores it there is a portion in the novel where the Doctor is trapped in another universe and has no idea what is going to happen to his companions.  He knows Ace and Benny will be alright, but can they fix the problem without him.  While he is three steps ahead he doesn’t know how to execute his plans throughout as he’s trapped.  Moving right along to Ace, you get some of the best Ace material for quite a while as she reacts as best as she can when faced with her own fears.  It has been several years, yet she is still haunted by the events of Ghost Light and is afraid of it happening again.  Her torture in the novel is very psychological as she becomes unsure of herself and gets her mind toyed with throughout the story.  She ends up being the one to flat out murder Gabriel and Tanith, which some fans may see as horrible, but I actually like the decision to make her be the murderer.  She has been toyed with and Gabriel and Tanith have been extremely smug with her as they torture her and it is sweet to get her revenge.  Benny is here and gets the physical torture as she goes through hell.  She gets roofied, falls into vampire orchids which suck two pints of her blood and is forced to drink blood.  Heck her body even dies in total gruesome glory and to see her get through it is great.  She still stays cynical and sarcastic even in the face of pain.


The supporting characters are also great as everyone minus the villains are slightly broken.  As it would get repetitive to go through them all I’m going to go through some of the key players before getting to the villains.  First is Justin Cranleigh who is pretty much a mental patient who can see all the crazy stuff happening in the story even before the villains appear.  His fate is heartbreaking.  Next is Cranleigh’s lover Sandra who is blind, so she doesn’t care about her lover Cranleigh’s deformities.  Again just wants to be happy but gets toyed with and suffers a horrific fate.  Finally we have assassin Jane Page who has no real name and has her own delusions of grandeur.  She eventually falls to the villains and becomes mad thinking she’s the king of England and her own redemption near the end.


Finally we get to the villains.  Gabriel and Tanith were created basically immortal and are just plain insane.  They torture everyone in the house as they find it fun.  Also they play themselves as the stereotypical stuffy British couple which is just terrifying.  They get there power as you cannot resist their demands, so if they say to hurt yourself you hurt yourself.  It becomes terrifying when it looks like they will actually get out of the house and wreak havoc if they ever got out.


Problems with the story are again the boring middle and honestly the prologue and the subplot with Qxeleq really doesn’t go anywhere interesting except a jump scare in the middle of the novel.  There are also a lot of continuity references that try to explain everything, yet it doesn’t need to, it can show it and not tell it.


To summarize, Falls the Shadow has some great character drama with some horrific imagery, but the problems with its length, pacing and supporting characters stop it from being anything above average.  60/100

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