Fade To Black by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus
Fade to Black is half-fascinating and half-frustrating. It’s highly imaginative and interpersonally insightful; but, it leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions. This is another “To Be Continued” ending.
Publisher’s Description: Live. Die. Repeat.
Dying violent deaths over and over again totally blows. Loner Jeff Grobnagger has learned this the hard way. Every time he has a seizure, he dreams that a hooded man strangles and kills him. He runs. He fights. He hides. No matter what he does, his efforts end in a pretty bad case of death.
But when someone tries to kill him in real life, he realizes that what happens with the hooded man isn’t just a dream.
“Dude, please stop trying to kill me.”
Who is the hooded man? And who tried to kill Grobnagger in real life? His quest for answers leads to a missing girl, cults obsessed with astral projection, an arcane puzzle sphere, an evil book, a private detective named Louise and a mustached man named Glenn that makes ‘the best martini you’ve ever tasted.’
Yep. If it weren’t for all of the horrific deaths, Jeff Grobnagger would be having the time of his life.
Nervous Nellie’s Nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!!)
<hee hee> Okay, fine. I thought the voice the authors created for the character was very unique. It really helps convey the impression of someone who is completely inwardly focused. So in that sense, I liked the writing. On the other hand, I don’t feel like this is a complete story, and that frustrates me.
Are you kidding me? Hanging in an alley getting killed over and over again? I’d rather live in the dark, thanks. Actually, I figured that you’d quantify all the symbolism and come up with transcendence of the soul or something of higher meaning. You are weird like that.
Nervous Nellie says…
Speechless. I sit at this computer keyboard and I have no idea what to write. I guess I’ll go with my basics and tell you how it made me feel.
Wow. This book really made me think. Not the story. The words in the story. This story is a simple mystery thriller but the protagonist brought to me a huge thought process about emotions, feelings of being alone and just wanting to be left alone. Some of the thoughts this Jeff guy had made me stop and think about how I feel. It left me with the need to reread parts of this book all over again. It was insightful. Yes. That’s the word. Insightful.
I don’t know how to begin scoring this book. It pulled me in; the story was a little different. It is pretty straight forward, but it’s the journey to self-realization that made an impression on me. The story… not so much. It feels more like a dream sequence There is a cliff hanger, and it’s a sharp one, so be prepared. This is not your normal mystery-thriller. I took it much deeper than that.
If you were to ask me if I’d read the next in the series, I don’t know how I’d answer. The writing was good, but it involved more psychological thinking than relaxation. I felt like I was in a session with a counselor.
What I Liked: The protagonist, Jeff, is entertaining in a goofy sort of way. His voice in the book is very unique and certainly depicts an inwardly-focused person. I wondered for a bit if Jeff wasn’t going to end up being a bit autistic or have Asperger’s. His internal monologue would certainly support that.
The idea of rival societies is interesting; that there is a play for power – mental power – going on and somehow Jeff has stumbled upon the power source everyone else is seeking.
Jeff’s path of self-discovery is very thought-provoking. He has crappy self-esteem – perhaps from having a crappy childhood. Children who aren’t loved and valued grow up believing they are valueless; Jeff not only feels valueless, but believes he’s repulsive, somehow bad. Facing that belief head-on and being able to question whether that’s really true is an amazing step for anyone.
What I Didn’t Like: There are a lot of things in this book that, upon reflection, don’t make any sense. For example, what purpose does Ms. Babinaux’s visits serve? She doesn’t give Jeff any useful information. For that matter, what purpose does the visit to the hippie guy serve? What is up with Gary and Louise? I don’t think they are who they say they are. It would be really sad if Jeff, who is trying to learn that he has value as a human, ends up surrounded by people who only want to use him because of his power.
The final seizure scene in the alley contains a lot of detail that doesn’t seem relevant. It might be relevant if I understood what the symbolism represents, but that’s not explained — nor is the final scene in the holding cell in which Jeff awakes. Are Babinaux and Gary Jeff’s parents? Why was the “guy” Jeff was fighting in his dreams Gary’s daughter and not himself? Fighting himself would have made sense. Fighting Gary’s daughter makes no sense.
I should say, none of this stuff makes sense by the end of Fade To Black. There are three more novels in the series in which this could all be explained; but, Fade to Black itself doesn’t have a satisfying ending. This seems to be a trend, particularly with indie books. As a reader, I feel cheated when a book doesn’t have an emotionally satisfying ending. I prefer there be a satisfying beginning, middle, and END to every book, in addition to elements that contribute to the series story arc. Otherwise it feels like one “story” has been chopped into little pieces – like, say, The Hobbit movies or the last Harry Potter movie.
So, while I like the ideas in the book, the insightfulness into depression and low self-esteem, and the crafting of the unique voice for Jeff, I just can’t get past the lack of answers and a proper ending. Other reviewers rate the series very highly, so you may like book just fine; I’m just not able to generate much enthusiasm for it.
If you like this book…
I can’t really think of anything off the top of my head that is similar to this book. It kind of made me think of the BBC America series Intruders, which is based off the book The Intruders by Michael Marshall Smith. I haven’t read the book yet, though.