Monday, May 8, 2017

A different kind of possession

The Time Eater

Aaron J. French


Publisher: Journalstone

Pub. Date: January 27, 2017

Rating: 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars

Roger Boroughs and his friend James Steiner has been estranged since an incident in college when they summoned forth a strange and powerful entity they call the Time Eater. Many years later, Roger is requested by a woman named Annabelle to visit Roger, possibly for the last time since Roger is dying of a terminal illness. There is a great separation between them, much having to do with their two ex-wives as neither seemed to have really resolved their separation and hold many regrets. But Roger has discovered something even more disturbing, the Time Eater has possessed James and that may not only threaten their reality but shatter their very existence.

In The Time Eater, we basically have an exorcism story but it is not one that is typical of the usual type of demon exorcism. The demon Roger and James are confronting is a powerful entity from other dimensions or perhaps independent of all dimensions. They refer to it as a time eater because that appears to be what it mindlessly devours. Aaron J. French has cleverly combined an exorcism tale with huge chunks of Lovecraft and many other authors of the same era and before, such as Blackwood and Machen, who created a form of metaphysical horror. In the author’s prose, it comes out more like an existential horror since it questions our existence and sense of reality on our limited realm.

It can also be called psychological horror. The mindset of James and Roger, not to mention other characters, is basic to the plot and the tension. As we will see, the very identity of some of the characters become in question. French has built a sort of a Jenga game regarding the delicate interactions interaction of the protagonists It is a miracle the various twists and turns doesn’t topple them over.

In fact, I can see some readers faulting the author on this. When we get to the apparent final resolution, others may feel the need to read back and wonder if some things look a little too definitive and pat to be believable. I have called other authors on this very thing. But here it works because French has developed a very original and creative idea and placed the reader in a reality that stretches and boggles the imagination. The parameter of the story makes the reality of the characters believable even with all the twists and turns. Using an appropriate cliché, we accept it hook, line and sinker.

I have always admired Aaron J. French’s works but at the same time I wondered if he was too steeped in the esoteric to catch on, primarily the somewhat old fashioned and elusive metaphysical horror of his influences. The bio on the back pages of his book states he is pursuing a PhD in religious studies and I can’t say I’m surprised. Yet this is his best and most accessible work to date. It is the one by him I would most highly recommend.

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