There’s something the matter with Ludlow, Pennsylvania. Something in the water. When Malcolm Warner first learns about the Light in the Dark, it sets in motion a ghastly, grisly crusade for the heart and soul of this tiny town that draws everyone to banks of the Mercy River, and something dreadful living in the muck and shadows. A few brave townsfolk desperately try to stem the tide of the Brethren who move inexorably to claim the town, and the world beyond it. Can anyone resist the Light in the Dark?
“This novel creeped me out. There’s a quiet, richly-detailed sense of place to it that runs into an ever-escalating horror as things go from bad to worse for the characters. It felt very “real” to me, despite the fantastical elements to it. The fictional Rust Belt setting of it, Ludlow, Pennsylvania, calls to mind Sewickley and places like that—little towns along rivers in Pennsylvania, tied to their industrial past and living in obscurity within the hills and mountains of the state.
The focus of the book is on Mal Lazarus, who has a transformative experience in the fictional Mercy River that turns him into what would be seen as a zombie by some, but a zombie unlike anything that people usually think with them. He’s undead, but he’s not unthinking; in fact, he thinks a lot. All of the characters do, and the writer jumps from group to group within the story to give you a real sense of dread and descent into nightmare.
The novel’s hero, Max, is a kind of foil for monstrous Mal — they are almost shadowy reflections of each other, with Max living in a kind of disengaged living limbo that contrasts the determined deathlessness of Mal. Mal forces Max to move beyond his own slacker ethos to pursue true heroism, and the way this grows on him feels very human and authentic.
The monsters in it are horrifying, and the book has genuinely skin-crawling scenes in it that will haunt you. Without wanting to reveal any spoilers, the Angel in the Depths is absolutely horrifying, and even thinking about it gives me the creeps.
The novel explores themes of religious fanaticism and paranoia, and has a definite vibe to it that is both worldly and cynical but with a keen insight into what makes us human and what takes that away. It gave me the heebie-jeebies and I loved every minute of it!”
“This is the first time I have ever REread a book. I had read it, enjoyed it, and then moved on to another book….by a best-selling author who shall remain nameless. I couldn’t stand reading that book because the one I had just finished (CHOSEN by D.T. Neal) remained enjoyably fixed in my memory. So, I picked it up again and started reading. Even though I knew what had happened, new details kept enriching my experience and I finished it again… in a day.
It is a fun read as action builds at an increasing rate with murder and mayhem and nary a drop of blood. Tarantino would save a ton on blood packets if he made this one into a movie.
Heidi is my favorite character among many who come alive and make you like them before they are dispatched or have you worrying that they might be. And yes, if anyone actually knew what a REAL zombie was, they might believe this was a zombie story. But the copyright page accurately disclaims any such resemblance as merely coincidental. The subtle humor in that disclaimer runs along with some very detailed yet subtle considerations of the BIG human questions…OR perhaps there is only one: What does it mean to be a living human being? None of this is done with heavy-handed socio-psychological, philosophical nonsense. All of it is a matter of the practical problems encountered by the fictional characters dealing with their bewildering dilemmas.
As complex and richly ambiguous as the journey is, the ending is even more so.”
“Chosen is not the first work by D.T. Neal that I’ve had the fortune to read, but it is the first full-length novel. Like many of his previous short stories, Chosen inhabits that place between the worlds of speculative fantasy and modern realism that provides the author with limitless opportunities to create wonderful, imaginative, and relevant allegories and the reader with an addicting page-turner.
At the most basic level, Chosen is a zombie book. It contains all of the familiar story elements of the genre—the random event that creates the first monster, the unwitting initial victims, the gradual realization by the heroes of what is happening, and the climactic Final Battle. On this level of storytelling, Mr. Neal provides terrific pacing and some beautifully rendered scenes. My two favorites both take place on the local riverboat casino. In the first, some fantastically gruesome things happen to the patrons outside in the river under blinking neon lights. The writing here is so visual you can see in your mind’s eye exactly the vision the author sees as the lights go on. And off. And on. And off. In the second, Mr. Neal recreates one of my favorite scenes, the classic “gambling with the devil”, ironically set in an actual casino this time. Everything about it is both completely unsettling and completely enjoyable (for the reader, at least).
But there’s a twist. The zombies of Chosen aren’t the classic mindless ghouls that inhabit the worlds of The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, or most recently World War Z. The zombies of Chosen are actually self-aware to a certain degree. And this is why Chosen can be read at a level beyond that of a simple zombie book. Mr. Neal posits a world populated by creatures who have self-awareness but lack self-actualization, a world where the ability to self-actualize has been forcibly and violently stripped from them. And as he spins out the implications of this world, he finds that “. . . there would be a final regression, the very darkest of Dark Ages, when all of the vanities of old would crumble and molder and fall by the wayside, while the world’s multitudes would look skyward with the blackest, deadest eyes, gazing at the uncaring stars with pale faces, blank and empty as the void itself, and wait for the world to end.”
Chosen is not only a terrifically fun read, but also a commentary on the control of the powerless many by the powerful few, the fragility of individuality and freedom in a world of invasive intrusion, and the roles that iconoclasts and misfits have in keeping it real. These themes are far more relevant to me (and others I presume) living in 21st century America than I ever thought they would or could be and this novel explores them in an honest and engaging way. If you are looking for something new and interesting to read this summer on (or off) the beach, I cannot recommend Chosen highly enough.”
“This was the second of D.T. Neal’s publications that I have read, and like the first I loved it. I actually read it at the same time that I read his newest book, Suckage (another book I would highly recommend), alternating reading one one book night and the other the next night. Let’s just say I didn’t get a lot of sleep this past week because I stayed up late reading these boooks. I’m a HUGE horror/scifi fan (although you don’t need to be to enjoy his books), so I’ve pretty much read/seen all the stories. One of the best things about this book is that the story is new and different, not the same old predicable tale. It is a new twist on a zombie novel, although you are not quite sure if they are even zombies. I read the Kindle version for $1.99 (I’m now officially hooked on e-books), which is a great price and very convenient. BTW, you don’t need a Kindle device to read the electronic versions. There are apps for computers and smartphones that you can download for free.”