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Story Time Review by
Mike Casto
John Ridley
Warner Books
ISBN 044653093X

THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley, at just over 350 pages, was an amazingly quick read for me. Once I got into the meat of it, I found it hard to put down.

The first metanormal (mutant) who came to the public's attention was Nightshift. No one really knew anything about him other than he was using his powers to stop criminals. It wasn't long before he was just old news; he became mundane. When the other metanormals started appearing, both good and bad guys, they faded into the background pretty quickly. The normals became complacent with the metanormals. They became lax. Why chase criminals when there were metanormals willing and able to do it better than the normal police?

Then, when a battle between the good and bad metanormals ends in the destruction of San Francisco, the country turns against the metanormals. The President signs an Executive Order and gives the metanormals 30 days to leave the country. Most of them disperse to other countries that will accept them. Special police units, Metanormal Tactical Units (MTac), are put together to find the metanormals and, if possible, arrest them. But usually, the metanormal doesn't go willingly. Usually MTac officers end up dead. Sometimes the metanormal ends up dead.

Years after the destruction of San Francisco, Soledad O'Roark is a tough cop in Los Angeles. On her first assignment with the MTac Unit they face a flame-throwing metanormal who melts regular bullets before than can touch him. With the rest of the unit already wounded and possibly dead, Soledad, in desperation, pulls her backup pistol. A weapon she designed herself and a definite violation of LAPD protocol. Her professional life takes a decidedly nasty turn when Internal Affairs starts investigating her. Outside of work, her love life is no less chaotic. While trying to put her professional and personal lives back in order another metanormal cop killer comes gunning for her. And he's one of the worst - a telepath who can take over someone's mind and body and force them to do anything. A telepath's signature way to kill is to force the person to commit suicide.

In some small sections, the book is written in journal format. And the POV switches a few times but it always comes back to Soledad and the reader spends most of the book inside her head. And it really seems as if you're inside her head. There is some nice irony in the fact that Soledad, while facing prejudice for being a black female cop, is, herself, completely bigoted toward the metanormal "freaks."

The writing has a clipped feel to it and, at first, it was hard for me to get into. Then I found the rhythm of it - it's a kind of staccato rapid fire - and I found that it flowed very well from there. It was kind of like watching a first-person shoot-em-up video game in demo mode. I don't really know how to describe it any better so I'll steal a blurb from the Denver Rocky Mountain News review: "Reads like a graphic novel without the pictures."

The story was a little shallow in places but not so much that it managed to distract me while I was reading it. Overall, I found the book to be thoroughly enjoyable and very engaging. I'm looking forward to the sequel, "What Fire Cannot Burn" which is now available in hardcover.

I'd rate THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS at three BookWyrms only because it was a little difficult to get into at the start. Having read it, though, I'm guessing I won't have that problem with the sequel.


This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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