“Diary of the Displaced” – by Glynn James

Cover ImageHe comes to on a pile of rubbish in darkness not knowing where he is, how he got there and with only a vague recollection of what he was doing beforehand. Thus starts the journal of James Halldon.

Diary of the Displaced is a set of journal entries that chronicles a 40 day period of time for the main character in a strange, dark land that he has no memory of. It’s a place full of foreboding, strange creatures and danger to the unwary. Halldon has to develop the right survival skills very quickly to avoid some of the more obvious perils.

Journal style storytelling doesn’t always work for me. It’s hard for a set of diary entries to really capture all the emotions and details of a scene as they are by their very nature a recollection. However, I think in this book, the author does a pretty job of setting an ominous mood that is somehow accentuated by Halldon’s sometimes dry after-the-fact summaries.

As Halldon struggles to find out where he is and how he got there a larger, darker land is slowly exposed to the reader. There’s something very ominous about this place and its denizens. On a number of occasions I murmured “Lovecraft” to myself. It’s rather odd because I’ve never actually read any works by Lovecraft. I was surprised to read later that the author is a Lovecraft fan, so at least some of that influence must have leaked into this novel if someone as badly-versed as I am picks up on it. If you like zombies – we have zombies. If you like huge slug things that will devour any thing/body in their path – we have those as well. Throw in some demon dogs, lizard creatures, a chilling nemesis with the name of CutterJack and a ghost or two of erstwhile residents and you have one hellish party.

Although much of the book relates what Halldon must do to survive, journeying through a brooding atmosphere of dread and discovering various blasted lands and even ruined cityscapes, there are definitely some action scenes thrown in. CutterJack is a convincingly terrifying foe and only appears enough in the story for you to wish he appeared more, but although his scenes were short, they were well done. There’s quite a bit of zombie carnage in the book and thankfully these scenes didn’t feel like they’d been peeled off the cover of the latest hack and slash computer game. We’ve got some splatter, but not a bloodbath.

A few other characters round out the cast, but I’m not going to go too much into detail on them as their involvement in the story should be earned. But I was happy with their contribution.

So what didn’t I like? A couple of things, actually. Firstly, the use of dream sequences to move the story along felt a bit forced to me. It’s great that someone can communicate across distances to a sleeping other, but to me it’s like the author couldn’t think of a more natural way to get the character to stop focusing on immediate survival and start tracking to a specific location. Secondly, the actual destination of the story ended up being less satisfying than I’d hoped. There are some revelations right at the end, but they didn’t end up letting you who Halldon was, rather who he wasn’t. It didn’t really help you understand what CutterJack was doing. Sure it’s stated, but it doesn’t really make sense, and neither does Halldon’s part in the whole storyline. When motives and reasons are not present at the start of a book, one reads on hoping that things will be understood later – when later arrives and those motives and reasons remain opaque, one feels a little let down.

Overall, I liked the book. I liked the foreboding atmosphere, the eerie landscape and the nasties discovered along the way. It was easy to read and the action scenes were controlled rather than a gore-fest extravaganza. However, I definitely would have liked this book to have a story arc that felt more complete. There is a sequel (which I will read at some stage); perhaps more is revealed in that episode.

Rating: 3/5

Price at the time of review: $2.99 US

Available: Amazon,Smashwords,Sony,Diesel,Apple

Author site: http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8510414-speed-dating-with-the-dead

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