Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A surreal ocean saga

Dark Rising

By Vincenzo Bilof


Publisher: Severed Press 

Pub. Date: September 22, 2014

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Vincenzo Bilof is one of the more adventurous writers out there. His poem/novel, The Horror Show, was exciting, challenging, and beautiful all at once. It was a grand experiment which, for the most part, successfully merged poetry, Bizarro Lit, and horror fiction all in one package.

When I picked up Dark Rising, I knew I would be reading something different than The Horror Show. The plot appears to be rather mainstream. It concerns a rich celebrity, Ana Vivaldi, who finances a journey to trace the last voyage of her mother who disappeared at sea. She hires the two survivors of the doomed expedition; Whitmore the alcoholic captain and Nightingale, a man who seems to have an obsessional grasp on the reason the first ship was destroyed. It involves a suitably awful sea creature and much more. At first it appears to be straight forward horror of the sea monster variety. Yet we soon catch a glimpse of something else that is quite original and very surreal.

Bilof’s style is anything but mainstream. He cannot disguise, nor should he, his very poetic style of angst and dread mixed with a sometimes florally descriptive prose. Yet in this novel, that style tends to fight with the overall plot. The somewhat quirky narrative structure in the first half of the novel adds to the challenge. I found the tale quite different and rewarding yet I wonder if the mainstream horror fan, whom this seems to be directed to, would appreciate the challenge. It is a book that demands attentive reading and strives on detail. But there is much to celebrate. Bilof’s excels at the shockers. When we discover some of the side effects of the first voyage and the nature of the monster we can appreciate the author’s originality and skill of description. His characters are interesting, eccentric and well developed as we slowly learn the connections between each of them.

I enjoy the odd but original style of Vincenzo Bilof. It seems that he doesn’t like to visit the same area twice and is always seeking to stretch his talent which also complementarily stretches the reader’s mind and expectation. In Dark Rising he is visiting the haunts of Moby Dick with a sly Lovecraftian twist. Like Moby Dick, the themes of obsession and its destructive qualities are all over the pages of this book. This theme is what makes the novel works so well. Yet I am not sure the straightforward horror of Dark Rising, the immortal themes, and the experimental prose of the author melded all the way. I liked Dark Rising… a lot. I think the reader that picks up this book will enjoy it as long as he has a yen for the surreal. Yet I found myself more immersed in the brashness and overall weirdness of The Horror Show more. What comes out in both books is that Vincenzo Bilof is one of those writers who you can bet on to be different and exciting.

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