Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Shimmer

by David Morrell
(Philadelphia: Vanguard Press, 2009)
eBook, 352 Pages, 525 KB, Fiction

When police officer Dan Page’s wife disappears, her trail leads to Rostov, a remote Texas town where unexplained phenomena attract hundreds of spectators each night. Not merely curious, these onlookers are compelled to reach this tiny community and gaze at the mysterious Rostov Lights. But more than the faithful are drawn there. A gunman begins shooting at the lights, screaming “Go back to hell where you came from!” then turns his rifle on the innocent bystanders. As more and more people are drawn to the scene of the massacre, the stage is set for even greater bloodshed. To save his wife, Page must solve the mystery of the Rostov Lights. In the process, he uncovers a deadly government secret dating back to the First World War. The lights are more dangerous than anyone ever imagined, but even more deadly are those who try to exploit forces beyond their control.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I picked up this book and started reading, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.

I first came across this book when I heard an interview with author David Morrell about The Shimmer and hearing him talk about the Marfa Lights, which served as the inspiration for the story’s MacGuffin, I was intrigued. It sounded like something along the lines of an early episode of The X-Files (like Season One or Two, before they got into the whole alien invasion plot line and the series started going downhill). And that’s I got … for about the first third of the book. Then Morrell added in shadowy government operatives, national security threats, etc., etc. and Morrell lost me.

I really enjoyed the lead-up with the disappearance of Page’s wife, the mystery of the Rostov Lights, the history of the Lights, the mythology that Morrell creates around the Lights … it’s all very fascinating and Morrell spins a great tale. Then the military shows up and all the mystery and supernaturalistic elements go right out the window and The Shimmer goes from an episode of The X-Files to a novel by Tom Clancy and it just destroyed the spell that Morrell had been weaving.

That’s not to say that The Shimmer is a bad book, it’s not. It’s actually pretty enjoyable, it just switched gears on me so fast that I wasn’t sure what to do about it and it ended up slowing down what would have otherwise been a good ending by miring it in techno-speak and wrapping up the story arcs of characters that just weren’t that interesting to begin with and who I didn’t care about, taking valuable page time away from the Pages and Morrell’s mythology of the Lights, and in the end, that is what is most fascinating about this story, the Lights and what they may or may not be and the effect that they have on people, and unfortunately that all gets obscured by military jargon and military operations and the wonder and mythology is lost.

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