Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Second Look review for The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

It isn't often that we review the same book twice. In fact, this might be the first time it's happened here at VampChix, so when Angie and I both chose to read The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a second look review.

What strikes me as being the most memorable isn't the unique characters of Niquette, Ben, and Anthem that begin as idealistic high schoolers trying to shape their futures until one fateful night alters every dream they ever shared, causing them to grow instead into lonely adults barely managing to contain their grief and disappointments. They are a superb cast of characters that are connected by a bond you can practically see and feel, linking them despite the circumstances. Ben is especially complex with his need to seek and sometimes expose the complete truth in every area, consequences be damned, except his personal life. Then his own sexuality is hidden in the shadows like a dark and dangerous thing that he admits to only when he can remain anonymous. 

The people shape the story and provide the framework, but they aren't the reason you keep reading long into the night. It isn't even the distinctive New Orleans setting, a much beloved city that's survived hurricanes and political scandals to remain proudly standing over the swamps, rebuilding with grit and sheer determination. Both character and setting are powerful aspects in this suspenseful tale, don't get me wrong, but it's the masterful writing style combining vivid descriptions with a deceptively casual tone that sweeps readers along, pointing towards the promise of hope while creating the next urban legend about your most horrible waking nightmares. 

It's like maneuvering Anthem's riverboat on the mighty Mississippi, the words generate exhilarating suspense as you encounter new twists and turns within the story, lulling you into believing that the deceptively beautiful currents will lead not to the unexpected horrors lurking beneath the surface, but to a place where evil is punished and the purity of heart will reunite Nikki, Anthem, and Ben as forever friends. Most will realize that this symbiotic parasite, something I envisioned as being like Venom in Spiderman, will destroy everyone involved, and probably in some newly invented monstrous fashion, but somehow the words and pacing aren't drowning in destruction. The potential for transformation doesn't necessarily have to be bad and the overall theme of acceptance makes it impossible to forget the power of friendship and love.

I'm very much reminded of how I felt (scared senseless and completely immersed) the first time I read a Stephen King novel, probably Firestarter or The Dead Zone, mesmerized and horrified in equal measure. Christopher Rice creates a world that is both haunting and beautiful, terrifying the reader just enough without being gory and gratuitous, like many horror novels that are dripping in blood these days. The emotional aspects of his characters calls to you long after the book is finished, making you think about your own inner demons.


~Anna Dougherty

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