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The Face of Twilight

by Mark Samuels

Introduction by Mark Morris

(PS Publishing, 132 pages, signed (by Mark Samuels), numbered, limited edition paperback, 1-904619-59-2 (paperback) £10/ $ 18. Also available as signed (by Mark Samuels and Mark Morris), numbered, limited edition hardback, ISBN 1-904619-60-6 (hardcover) £ 25 / $ 45. Published February 2006.)

Review by Mario Guslandi

cover scanThe good news for every reader (including myself) who got enchanted by Mark Samuels' remarkable collection The White Hands and other weird tales is that he's back with his debut novella.

The bad news is that , at least in my way of thinking, the novella is a disappointment.

Ivan Gilman is a writer with a pronounced inclination for the booze, seeking inspiration for his third novel but actually just scribbling down notes here and there, mostly in his favourite pub.

Recently moved into a new flat, Gilman is made uneasy by the presence of a strange character living in the floor below, a certain Mr. Stymm. The enigmatic Stymm gets apparently involved in the disappearance (which will turn out to be a murder) of a woman occasionally met by Gilman in the usual pub.

A series of puzzling events will lead to the discovery of a terrible truth: the world is being taken over by a bunch of "necromorphs". I won't add further details in order not to spoil the (few) surprises that the story has in store.

The novella confirms once again that Samuels is a great writer, endowed with an elegant, effective and captivating writing style. He's a master in creating dark and disturbing atmospheres and in eliciting a sense of mystery with a few sentences (an outstanding example is the passage where he evokes the disused stations of the London underground).

But when we come to the story itself then it's a different matter entirely. The plot , rather ordinary at the best of times, becomes embarrassingly implausible on more than one occasion.

Moreover, once the core of the storyline is given away, the following events are more than predictable and the whole narrative runs out of steam.

Samuels is prodigious in managing to maintain the alienating, claustrophobic mood surrounding Gilman's desperate attempts to restore the appearance of "normality" and to preserve his own mental balance, but, as the story goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to the reader to keep up his suspension of disbelief and, more simply, his attention to what's taking place on the page.

So, I'll stop beating around the bush and tell clearly and plainly the naked truth: the book is boring.

I'm sure other reviewers will rave about The Face of Twilight and I won't be surprised should the novella be nominated for an award or two or even get one.

As far as I'm concerned I'll be patiently waiting for Samuels' next book, hoping that in the future his enormous talent will be serving at last a passable plot.

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