The old adage goes that “you should not judge a book by its cover” and though it is a virtuous sentiment it is not one that is typically followed. Welcome to day three of my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge! In this challenge I will be reading the first entry or chapter of a different serial (or web fiction) and then give my first impressions on them be they good or bad. In short: I will be judging a book by its cover.
Today’s Serial is Don’t Feed The Dark, an apocalyptic serial novel by Scott Scherr.
Scott Scherr’s website is beautifully done. Its grungy stain filled facade impressed me and it did well to immediately set the mood to his very dark writing style. I found myself being jealous by his theme as with a simple trail it casually leads you straight to his RSS feed which I am certain has treated him very well. Beauty aside, the site does feel a little claustrophobic at times as his sidebar is filled to the brim. Each item in this sidebar has a function, however, and each one serves to help promote his serial, and honestly, I was not distracted by them. My only real criticism would be that the pages that I landed on started with a wall of tags and key words which was a little confusing. I would prefer that those were hidden.
“The October harvest moon ascended above the tree line; its ominous, orange lit lower half sporadically penetrated the dark clouds that slowly consumed the night sky. Like an alien eye staring down upon the dark and silent village of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, that fiery orb held its gaze upon the small downtown streets below, sensing an unsettling presence that did not belong.”- Don’t Feed The Dark, Chapter 1: Demon Night.
This hook did it for me. When I read “October harvest moon” I rolled my eyes and thought oh no, not “a dark and stormy night” but it won me over. Quickly. Despite my immediate harsh perception of it (due, no doubt, to a lifetime cultivating a terrible disposition) the hook comes together very well and establishes a very eerie and off-putting sense that something is wrong. The prose is as poetic as it is haunting. The author did not simply grab my attention, he stole it.
This chapter had my full attention. The author gives just enough details of a horrific and psychopathic scene to intrigue, but he also teases enough of the unknown to leave no one sentence as being completely satisfying. This meant that I was always reading on to unravel whatever horror is out of sight, and thus had a constant momentum. The horrific scene that he does let you in on is disturbing, but there is a sense that there is something else behind the corner that is worse. His use of allusion and flowery prose peppers in some very good sentences, and each does a service to further the dour mood he drives home. It ends with a slight cliffhanger that beckons the reader to continue.
I would continue reading this serial, even knowing ahead of time that it would be quite the commitment. The author has written over 600,000 words and is working on his fourth novel. This would normally seem daunting to me (I prefer stand alone novels) but after reading the first chapter I can see myself easily devouring each book. Everything here works together well. The theme helps set the mood, the hook was good, and each sentence has a purpose to drive you forward to the next paragraph.
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on Zoner’s serial The Zone, or check out my own serial: