Nightfall - by Daniel Barnett
Nightfall, by Daniel Barnett, is a case study of pretty much all of the things that are going to tick my “right” boxes and make the world disappear for however long I can maintain my bubble of uninterrupted abandon. This, folks, is pretty much the perfect start to a series that I hope will make Daniel a household Horror name. He’s certainly achieved that in mine. I’ve thrust the book under the noses of both my daughter and wife, with emphatic finger-pointing and “This! ...This!” kind of helpful commentary when it came time for them to choose their next book.
Let’s break it down. First off, this, and the following books in the series, have lush covers from Daniele Serra, whose artwork I had previous experienced on Hailey Piper’s limited run of her book “Of night tyrants and terrors”. That cover hit a chord with me, enough that I immediately recognized the beautiful style, tone, and brushwork, that I was already betting it was Serra before I opened the first page. It screams at you to buy the series in paperback, just to collect Serra’s artwork. Really. It’s that good. There’s something almost Sandman-ish about the cover, you know that whatever you are about to read, it’s not only going to be engrossing, it’s going to be poetry for the soul.
And that’s what Barnett’s prose delivers.
Daniel has a unique voice. I mean, really outstanding. Not only in the musical quality to his prose, but the breath-taking observational truths he observes:
“There’s your television-sixty inches of sexy plasma. There’s your Netflix, always ready to welcome you with some rewarmed sitcom laughter, and your stack of Blu-rays and your bookcase full of well-worn paperbacks. There’s Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram to keep you connected, to show you all of the places you’ve yet to visit and people you’ve yet to meet. You’ve a thousand worlds at your fingertips, a thousand lives, and before you know it, home is just the place you go to be somewhere else, somewhere else, until morning comes and your dreams end and you have to be you again.”
I mean, take a second to accept how extraordinary this is. Observational writers are one in a million, putting into perfect words the truths we cannot express, and to which we can only wonder at when read on the page. It is the kind of writing where your arm hairs stand on end, your body aware on a subconscious level that monumental things are occurring, that it is time to sit up and take notice. It is a voice, a true voice, one of the things you have been searching for in all those paperbacks, and it is here. You found it.
I mean, the premise of the story is fantastic too. Try explaining the book to anyone (my wife and daughter for example). They will ask:
“How come everyone doesn’t die immediately of the cold?”
And you are left thinking – exactly – how come? That’s the point. The hook to the whole series. The character work is excellent, the personalities sublime, the villains wonderfully repugnant, the prose electric - but the hooks – and there are so many – are what sell the series. I need to know what happens.
So, thank the man. Thank him that he believed enough in the concept not to explain away all of the mystery in the first book. Thank him for his belief in you, his reader, that he could tell the story at its own pace, and that you would be tantalized, not alienated, at the fact that this is only the start of his world. Thank him for the observational beauty you can glimpse, devour, and that heart in mouth moment when the world and all of its distractions do not exist anymore, and there is only you, and the prose, and the world gone to hell with no sun and madness whipping around you like a river. It’s stunning. Beautiful. Dark. Deadly. Outstanding.
Easily in the top 5 of the books I have read this year.
5 out of 5 ⭐’s, and you have a fan, Daniel.
You can buy Nightfall (American Amazon), HERE
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