This is ‘only’ a novella, but author Gary McMahon has crafted a satisfying, self-contained story which works on several levels. It’s a smart, fast-paced action-adventure. It’s a heist-gone-wrong romp where the bad guys (and some of the good guys) get a gruesome comeuppance. It’s an exploration of maturity, of accepting the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s an occult conspiracy a la Aleister Crowley or Dennis Wheatley. So mash up The Long Good Friday and Rosemary’s Baby and… well, you’re close. But Reaping the Dark tells its own tale.
That’s an awful lot of content, crammed into one short book. I hoovered it up in one self-indulgent extended sitting. Worked perfectly with a tube of Pringles.
The action opens with a traditional supernatural setting; the summoning of an Awful Thing from the other side. That thread is left dangling and we switch to…
…a getaway driver, who could’ve come straight from ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,’ waiting for his crew to return from a robbery with the loot. Pause for introspective musings on the nature of a successful getaway: no rubber-shredding screeching for our guy, oh no. He’s much more thoughtful and controlled (shades of Jason Statham in the Transporter). But the driver’s professionalism matters not: things quickly go pear-shaped and there’s gunfire, bodies in the gutter and a distinct lack of honour among thieves as someone tracks down the fleeing protagonist with a view to reclaiming (with extreme prejudice) the stolen booty.
Reaping The Dark doesn’t dilly-dally for detailed description or in-depth back-story. The characters are lightly-sketched amid a swerving storyline that yanks the reader along without pausing for thought. We’re kept guessing along with the protagonist as things go from bad to worse to outright demonic.
However, unlike some short stories which are all plot and no philosophy, Reaping the Dark
then takes a breath to consider the hero’s actions and his underlying motivation which will resonate for many young men at a certain point in their lives. OK, so few readers will be running from an ancient order of occult devil-worshippers, but the subplot gently reflects an one of life’s shared moments of change. A carefree young man, previously responsible for no-one and only his own desires, suddenly understands he has an anchor in life – one which might give him solid foundations and emotional fulfilment. Or it might drag him down and drown him.
Or in this case, eat him.
Reaping The Dark was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It doesn’t demand the commitment of a full-length novel but proved more satisfying than most short stories. In retrospect, I’m not entirely certain that all aspects of the plot hold up when you go back and think them through… but while I was in the moment I was having too good a time to really care.
So I’ll be adding Gary McMahon to my list of enjoyable authors.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Reaping the Dark by Gary McMahon is published by DarkFuse and available on publication as an ebook at Amazon