Amnesia. It's one of the most overused tropes in entertainment history, overplayed to the point that it has become a soap opera punch line - and rightly so. While it can be effective when resolved in the right way, all too often it's drawn out for the sake of dramatic effect. Juliette's prolonged amnesia on Grimm is a perfect example of where a desperate attempt to generate a little genre fails miserably.
Tie that amnesia to the proverbial drifter, and you've dug yourself a literary hole that many readers won't care to escape.
Fortunately, John Mulhall understands the risk involved in building a story around a drifter's amnesia. While it launches Geddy's Moon, the amnesia here is exploited just long enough to help establish some mystery, and then promptly resolved. It ends up being one of those rare instances where the trope works, and where the story is stronger for using it wisely, allowing for a very nice narrative reveal. There's such a sense of anticipation created through Tyler's dreams and his snippets of memories, we not only care what's happened to him, we're desperate to understand just what he's tried so hard to forget . .. and why.
Mulhall's work here reminds of Jonathan Mayberry, a literary nod to the likes of King and Koontz, but one that stops short of being a homage or an imitation. It's more an acknowledgement of just how effective, how narratively compelling those older stories are, updated for a new generation of readers.
There's a great story here, built upon a solid mystery and a truly chilling sense of horror. It's a story with several twists and turns, many of them surprising, some of them even shocking, but all of them consistent with the progression of the story. There are no cheap twists here, and no forced gotcha moments. Mulhall evokes strong emotional reactions on the part of the reader, but does so fairly. More than that, it's a story driven by great characters, men and women who are already being developed the moment they first appear on the page. It's hard not to become connected to these characters, to identify and sympathize with them, which is (of course) key to making us care about those narrative surprises.
The pacing, for the most part, is excellent, with only the ending coming across as a little rushed. There's a lot of detail, and a lot of time invested in developing scenes and settings, but it all flows well. While I sometimes found myself impatient to get on with the story, to find out how it was all going to be resolved, that's not a comment on the pacing or the level of detail, but on my investment in the fate of the world created.
I hate to keep making comparisons, but if you're a fan of the 'classics' of King, Koontz, Straub, McCammon, and their peers, where the supernatural element is just as important, just as well-developed, and just as entertaining as the character element, then you are definitely going to enjoy the read.
Published February 20th 2013 by Blanket Fort Books
Kindle Edition, 475 pages