Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Gallery Books (Oct. 2013)

Five Stars Out of Five

Niquette (Nikki) Delongpre lived with her upper-class parents in New Orleans, while they were finishing their showplace estate which they called Elysium, in a swampy bayou area outside of the city. Nikki had been a popular girl in prep school, where she dated Anthem Landry, a handsome but somewhat dim blue collar transfer. They had been apart only a short time, when Nikki went on one date with Marshall Ferriot, who tried to force himself on her, ending the date prematurely. A lasting effect from that evening was that both Marshall and Nikki got infected by a strange parasite, present in the untreated well water in Elysium’s recently-finished pool. Not long after, Nikki and her family vanished, and their wrecked car suggested that they may have died in an accident en route to the estate, though no bodies were ever found in the bayou.

Nikki’s disappearance affected all those she knew, but especially Anthem, who fell into an alcoholic haze soon thereafter. Their best friend had been Ben Broyard, a slight but outspoken gay teen, who now spent much of his time trying to befriend Anthem and try to get him sober. Marshall had attempted suicide, and ended up in a comatose state in a long-term care facility, where the nurses swore that he somehow could control people and small animals just by making eye contact.

Fans of the talented Mr. Rice have been awaiting his new book for over three years, and will not be disappointed. Taking his first giant step into the supernatural genre, the author delivers an engrossing (though a bit overly complex and gory) tale of the mysterious bayou country, with its racial and class disconnects, political and corporate corruption, personal greed and revenge, and regrets for actions that could not be undone. It’s not primarily a “gay book” in itself, though the character of Ben is fully nuanced and somewhat pivotal to the story. Well-written, highly imaginative and worth your time.

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