Monday, September 23, 2013

North Dark by Lane Kareska: Guest Post and Review


The 5 Dead People I Wish I Had Known


1.      Jules Verne—I just spent the last five minutes going back and forth between Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe on this one. This is probably one of those things where I think it would be really cool to have met Poe, or hung out drinking in Baltimore taverns with him, but it would have been just really sad, and disappointing, so I’m going with Verne. One gets the sense he was a person of boundless mental energy. Journey to the Center of the Earth, A Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, etc. So cool. Actually, you’d think Verne would be very in vogue right now with the Steampunk crowd. Is he? I don’t know. He should be.


2.      Nick Drake— I’m talking about the British songwriter from the 70’s whose work has enjoyed a renaissance in the past 10 years. I went through two very serious and distinct Nick Drake phases. The first was in the early 2000s when he was featured on The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack and in a notable Volkswagen ad. But the second, and more important, phase was about five years later. Drake only released 3 albums and they’re all fairly brief. I used to listen to those in succession while writing at night—it got moody. At the peak of this infatuation, I dreamt that I was walking along a misty, British garden and interrupted Drake sitting alone, catching a falling leaf in a book. I told my brother about this dream, and his response was, “Wow. You were visited.”


3.      Michael Chrichton—Either he became a controversial figure later in life, or he always was, and I just wasn’t aware of the controversy until recently. But regardless, Chrichton has always seemed to me a writer of mythic industriousness. I would have loved to have met him. Was he a polymath? I kind of think he must have been. He was a physician, a writer of thrillers, nonfiction, historical fiction; he wrote for film and television, he directed films—achieving success in any one of those fields would be impressive enough. Also, as a kid, I loved his books and even in fifth or sixth grade I was struck by his range: he wrote as compellingly about the Vikings in 9th century as he did about dinosaurs in the 20th century. The impression I always had of him, right or wrong, was that of an adventurous, good-humored, writer’s writer.   


4.      Johnny Cash—This one’s a no-brainer for me. Everything about Cash is so dramatic; his presence, baritone, lava-flow pompadour, banged-up face, etc. But more than the image he cuts and his distinctly American persona, he was such a major-league storyteller. Even someone who doesn’t like his sound had still probably listened closely to his parables. A Boy Named Sue, Folsom Prison Blues, Jackson—it’s pure narrative, bloody, dirty, and reeking of cigarette smoke.


5.      The real Paul McCartney.
North Dark by Lane Kareska
Set in a lonesome and barbarous failed state, North Dark is the story of a lone man traveling by dogsled across a frozen wasteland in pursuit of the fugitive who destroyed his family.
Haunted by predators both physical and spectral, the musher’s journey takes him across a deadened tundra, tortured cities and the remains of civilizations long-lapsed into madness. All the while, his enemy slides in and out of striking distance, always one step ahead, always one act of violence away.
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I wanted to read this book because I love stories set in frigid cold, desolate places.  I also like reading stories where traveling by dog sled is standard fare. Most importantly, I am always entranced by a good mystery. This book grabbed me right away because there is an unsettling intensity and plainness to the writing that I thought was unusual and refreshing.  
The premise is good; the crime that instigates the chase is intriguing, and so I settled in for an afternoon buried in the book.  As I read my mood plummeted, I was engaged in the story, but sickened by the escalating violence.  Civilization no longer exists.  This is a kill or be killed society in which any small act of kindness is countered by brutality.  Just when I thought there would be redemption in the form of a selfless act my hopes would be dashed as treachery and deceit won out. 
The main character is driven by revenge against another, yet, for me, he was the most dislikable character of all.  Relentlessly he pursues his quarry across the wasteland while assaulted by real and imagined enemies.  I felt as though I should be awed by his tenacity, but I just wanted him to find some relief finally from his tortures.  
This post-apocalyptic vision is extremely disheartening and disturbing. The repressed denizens of this brutal land retain a flickering bit of hope that an invincible liberator is amongst them. Yet, when finally the truth is revealed there is little satisfaction to be found. Darkly mesmerizing, surreal, and brutally intense, this book will appeal to those who enjoy looking deeply into the abyss of human madness, where survival is a bitter challenge that must be fought and won daily.  
This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Reviewed by Laurie-J     
Lane Kareska was born in Houston, Texas. He studied writing at Columbia College Chicago and his MFA is from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he was also awarded a Fellowship to live and write in Ireland. Lane traveled Europe and South America to research his graduate thesis. He teaches creative writing and works in technology and new media. His fiction has appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Sheepshead Review, Flashquake and elsewhere. Lane currently lives in Chicago and can be followed on Twitter @LaneKareska as well as reached at


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