Friday, June 24, 2011
Robin Parrish's "Nightmare"
Maia Peters is the daughter of two rather famous paranormal investigators. She’s trying to find her own way in life, and is studying criminal justice in college. But the knowledge of her famous parents sticks to her, and attracts the attention of Jordin Cole, a wealthy fellow student who will pay just about anything to investigate the very things Maia wants left behind her. Eventually Maia gives in, and the two visit some of the most famous haunted places in America, from a tuberculosis sanitarium in Kentucky and Alcatraz to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. They find ghosts, all right, all kinds of ghosts. And Jordin loses something in the process – her soul.
And Maia, helped by Jordin’s fiancé Derek Hobbes, is going to get it back.
There’s a lot to ponder about Nightmare, this novel by Robin Parrish.
First, it is highly structured, with the story of Jordin’s disappearance alternating chapter by chapter with the investigations that Maia and Jordan undertake around the country. Parrish uses this structure to heighten the growing tension, building the story toward a terror-filled climax.
Second, it is what’s called speculative fiction, something known primarily to readers of Christian fiction as “that edgy stuff that just might be theologically suspect but it's hard to tell.” The story is filled with ghosts, apparitions, and demons meaning great harm, and it’s published by Bethany House, one of the best known and highly regarded publishers of Christian fiction. Yet the author stays true to orthodox theology.
Third, it’s a ghost story, plain and simple. It’s well written and fast paced, and it reads quickly. At this level, the structure takes on a different kind of role – actually providing relief to the growing tension and horror of the main story.
My one criticism of the novel concerns the villain, who occupies a rather shadowing position in the story until near the end. The villain’s presence could have been less shadowy; some considerable ground had to be covered to get the back story. But this is a minor criticism; I got so absorbed in the narrative that I often lost track of the time on my bedside clock. And I read it in less than weekend.
Parrish tells a good ghost story.
Related: My review of Robin Parrish's Offworld.