Flinging a respectful salute to Lovecraftian lore, the novel carefully recreates the poetry of familiar cosmic horror and secret history, and scatters easter eggs about liberally. But Robert DeFrank is no copy cat, and he overlays his stories on Lovecraft’s cherished backgrounds in his own confident, elegant (and to be honest, much more accessible) way. Here is good horror, written well, and for genre afficiandos that alone should be enough to click the purchase button.
The tales of Star Winds at Dusk are anchored around a respect and dedication to building a solid supernatural mythos, providing the cozy depths to lose oneself in that is so necessary to a good horror tale. Though the book is filled with outlandish beasts and no small amount of the occult, Robert DeFrank pulls off that Lovecraftian trick of presenting the inexplicable with academic credulity, and really pervades the sense that a world of the inexplicable lies close by… for those that know how and where to look.
All this talk of H.P Lovecraft may be off-putting to some, but those of you who don’t know their Shoggoth’s from their elbows won’t feel put out. Star Winds at Dusk isn’t a fan fiction, and at the core of the cosmic musings is a solid thread of story filled with intriguing characters. It’s an original twist on time-tested concepts.
I thoroughly enjoyed Star Winds at Dusk. It was pleasingly intriguing, sometimes disturbing and shot through with a quiet dread and tension you’d expect from a seasoned horror writer.
If you could change people’s minds, would you change the world? If so, how far would you take it? That’s the question at the heart of The New Lease, a global thriller that pits a journalism student against a rising political movement with darkly fascinating philosophies on the future of humanity.
The New Lease does what you’d expect a good thriller to do— it hooks you, reels you in and keeps you turning the pages. However, this novel has little in common with your typical Patterson or Child. In a particularly homogenous genre, The New Lease stands out as something very different. For a start, there’s very little reliance on action and suspense to keep you interested. There’s no cheap tricks to keep the pace flowing. What The New Lease relies on instead is a sumptuous cultural immersion and a highly intriguing concept.
Without giving too much away, John Stryder makes a very convincing case for supernatural ability through tantric practice, and indeed, the first person account of a young man on a spiritual journey is perhaps the strongest and most compelling writing in the book. The central premise, though, that a person who can change minds might start a cascade of unprecedented political change, is what propels the reader to the ending.
There is no real hero or villain in The New Lease, as the conflict instead revolves around a tricky moral question— if the ticking time bomb of over-population is an extreme problem that requires extreme measures, who, if anyone, has the moral authority to tackle it head on? In a world that’s increasingly turning a cynical eye to the fallout of globalism and free market capitalism, a book that questions whether we’re capable of change without compromising our innate values is very much of its time. With a careful sense of moral ambiguity, The New Lease doesn’t bash you over the head with any convenient resolutions, and even the protagonists are left not entirely sure who to root for.
Philosophical intrigue aside, The New Lease is a solid read with few weaknesses. Those sensitive to such things might pick up on John Stryder’s tendency to front-load exposition and tell rather than show, but honestly these foibles are brushed aside by the force of the plot, which, in a thriller, is always king.
Above all, The New Lease has an ace up its sleeve when put alongside the usual cookie-cutter detective yarns that pad the thriller genre, and that is that The New Lease is inherently interesting. And that alone is worth a reader’s time.