Many would argue that the concept of a small town is overdone in the horror genre, and those people have a valid point. The basic formula of a stranger encountering a small town where nothing is as it seems and danger lurks behind the tranquility of a simpler way of life is certainly nothing new. This formula has been employed in all kinds of movies and literature. However, an idea that is not entirely original does not mean it cannot be done effectively.
This is the case with Firefly Rain, a novel by Richard Dansky which shows how a standard plot formula can still be used to create a good story. On the surface, the novel can easily be compared to a hundred other books of the horror genre, but Dansky makes use of deeper themes and unusual twists. In this novel the main character, Jacob Logan, returns to the town where he grew up and the home he left behind. His parents are now dead, and while little else has changed, there is the sense that the character himself has been altered irrevocably Ė or perhaps not at all.
The trouble begins immediately. Jacobís car is stolen and his possessions lost. The townspeople are hostile, weird noises plague the house at all hours of the night, and the fireflies which are prevalent everywhere else go to extremes to avoid the land his childhood home sits on. It isnít long before these strange events become increasingly hostile and have the main character fearing for his life.
This is a somewhat typical progression for a horror novel, but what isnít typical is the ability of the author to run well-crafted themes through the plot like an electrical current. When Jacob comes into contact with all the extraordinary and frightening things happening to him, he is forced to confront one of the greatest horrors of all: his own past.
This confrontation brings about one problem after another caused by the combination of the strange events that are happening to Jacob in the present as well as the various memories awash with bitter nostalgia. His relationship with his parents was tumultuous and unfulfilling; like most young people in small towns, Jacob had a desire to leave and never come back. This conflict not only with his parents but within himself provides the reader with clues about Jacobsís origins and motivations, and the theme gives readers something to relate to.
Not only is there conflict in Jacobís relationship with his family - there is also conflict with the town itself. Jacob has lived in the city and spent his adult life avoiding his small-town roots. Now, forced to face them again, he is conflicted as to why or if he should leave, part of him longing for a simpler life even if that isnít entirely what he wants.
As the reader learns more and more about Jacob, the events in Firefly Rain continue to escalate, bringing the story to a climatic showdown. Even so, it is the more subtle themes Ė nostalgia, family relationships, the past - that allow readers to be introspective. Being able to identify with the character and the base of his problems makes the strange and frightening events seem more realistic, and this drives the true terror.
As the novel goes on, Jacob faces more and more difficult circumstances, and there are moments in Firefly Rain that are genuinely creepy. Dansky has powerful descriptive abilities, and he excels at making even the most innocent of things, such as fireflies, seem downright frightening. While the story provides the scares in good measure, it does so without resorting to extreme violence and gore. Instead Dansky continues to weave a powerful mystery built around the deeper themes that are plaguing his character and readers will be swept up in the mystery right along with him.
In a genre so besieged by pointless violence and cheap thrills, it is a real pleasure to read a horror novel that is an authentically well-written book. Firefly Rain is an original and well-told story that builds on deeper themes and makes use of good-old-fashioned mystery and suspense to provide readers with a spooky story sure to be enjoyed.