Let me start off by saying that although Steve Niles is dubbed as a modern master of horror, as a writer he doesn't do much for me. I've read his 30 Days of Night and while I was initially in love with it, I couldn't say it stayed brilliant with me through another reading. I've tried some of his other works and have always felt a tad underwhelmed. The one project of his I did like a lot was his short-lived Simon Dark book for DC Comics which I ended up dropping due to financial reasons, but sadly the fact that the book was heavily decompressed didn't make it a hard decision. I don't want to bash the guy. I love his enthusiasm for the horror genre and you can see his love and devotion for it. Heck, I've met the guy once and thought he was mega cool peoples. But I always feel as if a lot is missing in his work and I can never put my finger on it. I love his ideas, but execution can be a lot better.
And once again I feel the same for his Radical book, City of Dust. City of Dust me meet a cop in the future by the name of Philip Khrome who turned his father in when he was a child after hearing a fantasy story from him. So yes, we're in one of those futures where fantasy, literature, religion, imagination are all banned and illegal. Even porn!!! While we are introduced to the main character, he gets caught up in a weird murder mystery strangely connecting to monsters- monsters that are so far resembling monsters of old tales – Tales of Dracula, werewolves, etc. Things get a tad difficult when Philip kills a criminal for praying and later he discovers a children's book and starts reading through it. Oh boy!
Now, premise is cool and grabbing. Sure, it's a retread of Fahrenheit 451, but its still a rather good premise in this day and age when kids, even many adults, aren't even reading anymore (it tragically pained me when my little sister and cousin told me they've NEVER heard of Anansi the Spider!!). Niles does a pretty good job with the characters, my favorite parts being the scenes with the protagonist and his love interest, a prostitute. Niles also does a good job blending sci-fi with horror monsters with a mix of crime noir. The art is moody and works well with the atmosphere and world we're introduced to. No complaints with the art, Radical tends to always do well with that. But like all Niles books, I'm left unsatisfied. I still feel there's something missing. Extra beats that could have really helped it be great. For one, I felt the villains were a bit too weak in comparison to the protagonist. Not weak as in threat, but weak in execution. While they're wrecking havoc since the beginning of the book, they still don't seem to give an alarming presence. They seem to come out of nowhere, cause trouble, and move on. There's a revelation of how they come to be, but it gets presented in a seemingly nonchalant way where you just want to see this end.
If you're into monsters and a good blending of genres, check this book out for yourself. There's enough grit and gore for these type of horror lovers. Also keep in mind that I started off explaining the relationship between me and Niles' writing, so if you're a fan of his, maybe this'll be up your alley. Beyond that, I can't say I fully recommend this.
Originally Pubished at: Minds of Greg