Nighthawks at the Mission by Forbes West
File Size: 558 KB
Print Length: 302 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Brontide West; Third Edition edition (July 23, 2015)
Publication Date: July 23, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
There are four main perspectives used in writing novels. The first person, the second, and the third (the most popular). Third can be sub catgorized into single, POV, and the omniscient, but I'll save my schoolmarm shtick for another day.
In the first person, you share the protagonist's thoughts and feelings, becoming in a sense their best friend for the length of the story. In the third person, you view the story and become part of an intimate audience. In the second person, you become the protagonist. Writing in the second voice is the trickiest task in writing, because your story must be compelling enough for your reader to be comfortable in the skin of the character they're going to be inhabiting. Think of the second person as "The Thing" of novel writing.
Both of my novels (Rule-Set and Selling Steve Jobs' Liver are written in the first person and my future literary itinerary calls for me to write one in the third. I'm not sure I'll ever write one in the second. There are a few examples of recent successful books written in the second voice, including Bright Lights, Big City and A Prayer for the Dying. In Sci-Fi, Ray Bradbury liked to experiment with the second person, but I don't think any of his novels use it.
This brings us to Forbes West's Nighthawks at the Mission, which is decidedly written in the second person. So, the first question we must ask is: Does he pull it off?
The answer is yes. West creates a compelling, cracked world that's fits the peculiar power of the second voice beautifully. The novel reads like what would happen if Jack Kerouac's On the Road took a left turn into Mordor at some point and ended up employed at a meth lab run by the Dark Lord. Visually, the world the author creates "feels" (and I use that word because Forbes West's prose has a very visceral quality) as if someone had poured a Dali landscape into a de Chirico street scene.
The plot of the story revolves around Sarah, who departs Earth via a refurbished Queen Mary, for The Oberon, an "off world" destination that is reached not via space ship but by passing through a dimensional portal located in the Pacific Ocean. The book does not explain the origins of The Oberon nor why thousands of people are emigrating to a place whose senior executive is called "The Witch-Lord," but never mind. You're on your way and will just have to puzzle it all out while you learn how to survive. The drugs, alcohol, and side trips to ancient structures that are described as "temples" but feel like long abandoned shopping malls, now infested with ancient insane human vampires, shoppers who stayed picking over the Blue Light Specials a bit too long while all the stores were being shuttered, will help keep boredom away. If by chance you're chased by one of the vampires, you can pray to survive, but don't recite from the Bible while doing it; those are illegal in The Oberon.
The following passage gives you a sense for the book's style and ever evolving weirdness:
You and Guy come upon a massive hallway with statues of two-headed men and of otherwise normal-looking women with fangs for teeth. The ceiling stretches upward, the vaulted roof and
tiled floor separated by a hundred feet of air. You feel like you are in one of those documentaries about the Vatican due to the Urncalles’ ancient and positively Greco-Roman look. Farther along is a corridor where purple water travels quickly upward on a slant with nothing supporting its trajectory, just open air.
A few young men and women in bathing suits and equipped with those ring-shaped life preservers are jumping into the pool and shooting upwards, disappearing into some area beyond in a rush of ever continuing water. A Ni-Perchta man, tall and imposing, guards the entrance to the water arc with a whistle tied around his neck.
I imagine this is the type of water park attraction Milton's fallen angels might have created while laying down the foundations of Hell.
Looking for something different? Want to kick your mind onto a very different plane? Tired of the same old, same old?
Nighthawks at the Mission and The Oberon await you.
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