Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review by JD: The Shimmer by David Morrell


  • The Shimmer
  • by David Morrell
  • ISBN: 978-1-59315-537-7
  • Pages 331: hardbound
  • Vanguard Press, 2009
  • Genre: Thriller – Science Fiction “ish”

Review by JD (posted by Shellie):

Dan Page is a police office who, in the time-honored fashion of movies and novels, is having an increasingly difficult time with his marriage. He gets back from work one day to find that his wife is not at home and has left a simple message saying she has gone to her mom’s. Page calls his mother-in-law and it becomes obvious that something is not right; they are both worried. It is taking Victoria (his wife) too long to get there and neither knows where she is.

Eventually he finds out that Victoria is in the tiny and remote Texas town of Rostov. Apparently she is unharmed but something clearly isn’t right. He drops everything and rushes to get to Rostov as quickly as he can. When he arrives the local police chief seems to be acting a little odd, but he leads Page out of town to a small observation platform that looks out over a featureless field. Victoria is there but seems to be in a world of her own, staring out across the field. Oddly, more people start arriving in an assortment of vehicles, and it becomes apparent that they’ve all come to try and see something. Some are peaceful and hopeful; just as many are grumbling about why they’ve been dragged into the middle of nowhere to look at nothing.

Then some of them start to excitedly point out across the fields at the beautiful lights which they say are shimmering, changing color and almost dancing. They are transfixed, but just as many people are puzzled, frustrated or angry – they can see nothing. It transpires that this phenomenon of the Rostov lights is nothing new; it has been going on not just for years but for many decades. Some of those who experience the lights feel compelled to come back time and time again, almost addicted to the experience. But it also transpires that the lights can sometimes feel threatening and scare people. There is a history of odd experiences surrounding the lights too.

And unknown to all of the watchers, the military have had an interest in the lights too. Their interest goes back to the days of the First World War and in the intervening years a secret military base had been set up nearby.

On the night that Page finds his wife watching the lights, one of the watchers is convinced that the lights are evil and seems to lose his mind. He pulls out a gun and starts shooting indiscriminately at the watchers, killing many of them. In no time at all, the town is swamped in media and crowds of new people, eager to experience the lights for themselves. But the increased attention seems to be having an effect on the lights, and things start to rapidly spiral out of control. Even while he is trying to patch things up with his wife, the policeman in Page inevitably takes over. Somehow, their future depends on getting to the bottom of the mystery.

I like the set-up for the story. There is a sort of “Close Encounters” theme running through it as people are drawn to inexplicable events which then change their lives. I think Morrell does a good job of intertwining several strands of the plot and bringing them all together at the end. The book certainly drew me in and it has a good pace. I finished it off in pretty short order.

I also like that there is some factual foundation for parts of the book. There is indeed a small town in Texas where strange lights are often seen by people, although it is called Marfa and not Rostov.

If I have one quibble with the book, it’s that I’m not crazy about the climax to the story. It is of course a fantastic story so I’m not sure why a fantastic climax should have jarred with me, but it did a little. Nonetheless I enjoyed the read. I’d rate it 3.5 stars.

For more information on the book, purchasing links, and the author David Morrell please see Layers of Thought’s preview for The Shimmer.


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I am running for my bookshelf. I see this cover and I know I have this books somewhere! Thanks for the review!

John D said...

Hi Sheile,
I hope you can find it! Sounds like you might have more than a few books to look through. Thanks for the comment.

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