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I don’t often read novellas or review them on the blog. Which is funny, considering that they’re perfect for those with busy lifestyles. They’re a lot shorter than your average novel, but still containing a full series within. The last novella I read was On Chesil Beach at the start of last year – that’s a big gap! Reading The Dark Stalkers, the first of six in an experimental fiction novella series by Henry Bassett, made a nice change from the hefty tomes I’ve been consuming of late.
“In a town not too dissimilar to yours lived Martha Railer; a solitary individual who lived by herself, yet enjoyed the company of her close friends whom she spent time with on days out. In a realm outside of human perception, something sinister had been put into motion, and inhuman dark figures arrived in her town. They stalked Martha on her day to day activities, but was she chosen or was it chance or, perhaps, even fate? However, a simple choice of a short cut home would change everything for her…& them.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
The Dark Stalkers is an interesting one. It comes under experimental fiction as the entire book contains no dialogue. (A stark contrast to a short story I reviewed by Anton Eine last year which only contained dialogue). I really like experimentation within writing so thought this was a great idea.
It was clear from reading that a story doesn’t actually need dialogue to be effective. Bassett has portrayed scenes just fine with out it, including those where conversations are taking place. Instead he relies on description and narrative to get across what is happening.
In this sense it worked, however the lack of dialogue led to a writing style that was somewhat repetitive. Dialogue helps to break the narrative up, but of course this wasn’t an option here. There was a lot of “she did this”, “she did that” and it didn’t flow as well as I would have liked. I wanted to see a greater range of sentence structures to compensate for the lack of dialogue – a better contrast of passive and active, and more focus on avoiding repeated words. It wasn’t written badly – there were some great aspects which I’ll discuss in a moment – but the writing style led to it feeling underwhelming as a whole piece.
One thing I loved was the use of description, in particular when relating to inanimate objects. Bassett brings these to life with sentences such one where he describes the sun banishing the darkness from the world as it rises. This was really effective, but I wanted to see it applied to the characters as well. We experience an animated world, yet our main character Martha felt lacking in personality, making it hard to really empathise with her. We never really got to experience the raw emotion within her, despite the things she goes through within the book.
I actually felt more connected emotionally with the shadows, mysterious creatures that we follow in separate chapters. Interestingly, chapters overlap and we see them firstly from Martha’s point of view, and then the shadows’. They are mysterious and elusive, and I enjoyed following their story as we try and work out what they are.
Something I felt could have been improved was the atmosphere of the more action-based scenes. I liked the less intense scenes, but once the action arrived they just felt a bit flat. There wasn’t enough tension, and scenes that should have been shocking didn’t grab me. There was a lot of telling and not enough showing, and the narration felt a tad too strong. I needed more impact, rather than a running commentary of each scene.
Despite this, there was something I picked up that I really liked, and that was Bassett’s use of sinister descriptions for things that actually weren’t sinister at all. This was where the real tension was built up – sentences like “…as those who had already been poisoned stumbled and collapsed around them.” You’d immediately think something tragic was happening, yet it’s actually a nightclub being described. These descriptions created mystery and unease, and I thought this was quite unique.
The Dark Stalkers was an interesting read for me. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, but it certainly left an impression. It’s experimental fiction, but I’d say still of interest to those who enjoy conformity – it’s not too out there, basically. The editing in terms of typos and formatting issues was perfect, but style improvements would make a more gripping story.
There are another five books in the series after this one, which are all published. I haven’t read any of these so can’t comment on whether the style changes or stays the same. I’d consider reading further new pieces from Henry Bassett, but only after he has addressed the improvement suggestions that I’ve mentioned.
The Dark Stalkers by Henry Bassett is available on Kindle. If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can do so below using the following links:
“Henry Bassett is an ebook writer first published in early 2019 with ‘The Dead Chronicles of Martha Railer’ series which comprises of six instalments. He went on to write dark fantasy one-offs and, at this time, is working on a new dark fantasy series ‘The Black Bear Brotherhood’.”
(Provided by author)
Have you read any experimental fiction before? How did you feel about it compared to fiction that conforms with writing rules? Let me know below. Also don’t forget to like and pin! Check out some of my other book reviews here: