Dark Things

Dark Things
By David M. Humphrey Sr.

Zombie angels.

Once I read that, I knew this book was bad beyond redemption.

Some books are so bad they cycle around to good again, as long as the reader seizes how bad the book is and laughs at it. This book goes beyond that. This book is so bad that I would be afraid to burn it, lest its ink pollute the air I breathe and cause me to die. In the interest of avoiding any of the sundry mistakes made by the author in my own writing, I’m going to go a little bit more in depth than I normally would in a review.

First off, the main characters in the story are in doubt until a good quarter way through the book. In the first few chapters, Humphrey lays out the same amount of background for every single character introduced. It doesn’t matter if the character is a nurse that’s “on screen” for one line of dialogue; she still gets a page of background for the reader to enjoy.

Why would an author do that? As a reader, I was lost as to whom I should pay the most attention to. I understand how an author will build up a world and have full backgrounds for many, many characters. However, I felt that Humphrey wanted to show all the work he’d done in developing all his characters and simply vomited his work onto the page. A good author will tell what’s needed when it’s needed. Don’t confuse the reader!

The opening scenes focus on a woman in an emergency room as well as the doctor that serves as her surgeon. (Well, I figured that out later, anyway.) The woman remains as the main character; the doctor, after pages of background and building up of his character, vanishes for the bulk of the remaining novel. He returns as a villain later, but spends most of his time “off screen.” This problem is related to the first; his return held no “oomph” at all. Why build up a character and not use them?

Rather than use the doctor as the main villain, about halfway through the novel Humphrey introduces a new character. This man is truly villainous and fits well in the role. He has a tie to the main character. Why even bother with the doctor when a better villain already exists?

The main character, Virginia Sills, remains unconscious through the opening scenes. The reader is treated to a description of Virginia leaving her body, meeting her guardian angel, and facing down demons who try to harvest her soul. These scenes show a glimmer of promise. The demons are a bit cliché in their appearance and actions, but the battle is well written.

However, Virginia serves as a wholly unlikable character. The angel orders her to get back in her body, and she refuses. Throughout the novel, Virginia makes nearly every stupid decision she can. “What? Get back in my body and stay alive? Naw, thanks.” I wanted to throttle her two pages after her introduction.

Matt, her guardian angel, is little better in the likable department. His supervising angel offers help, and he refuses. “I need to do this myself.” Rather than actually doing the best thing to protect the woman and getting heavenly help he can trust and will do the job, he puts his ego first. Nice angel.

Granted, his character arc shows him learning that lesson and eventually calling in help. However, particularly for the first hundred pages or so, that character flaw simply grates, particularly as it doesn’t appear as if it will be addressed.

Now, these things serve as examples of bad writing. The book also holds terrible theology.

For instance, any hunch we might get is actually the Holy Spirit whispering in our ears. If we deny a hunch, unless it goes against what God has revealed in his Word, we are sinning. Talk about laying a burden on souls, not to mention the physical danger that can be brought about through such a thought!

God created nine planets before the first day of creation, and when some angels rebelled, it destroyed the first world and God “got it right” with this creation. So, we’ll just ignore “It was very good” from Genesis, apparently.

Oh, and the Gospel? Never appears. The author conveys a great respect for God’s Word. He uses God’s name with great respect. Yet, I do not recall any mention of Jesus dying for sins. Perhaps it was buried. Perhaps it was assumed. Yet, Virginia needs this message spoken to her. Instead of talking about Jesus on the cross, Matt shows her scenes of the fall of the angels. Nice.

And… zombie angels.

Matt, at one point, shows Virginia a flashback of the fall of Lucifer. By the way, there’s no reason in the plot for him to do this other than to “prove that there is a God.” I think the writer had an idea and wanted to show he could write it. I’ll admit, the flashback scenes are very impressively written, but they hold no connection to the rest of the novel.

Anyway, we are treated to a scene of Lucifer creating a new creature: death. This creature “eats” one of Lucifer’s servants, killing him cell by cell in a very vivid scene. (Oh, yes, angels were originally physical creatures as well.) Once death has “eaten” the angel, it animates the corpse (Angels leave corpses!) and continues to live in it.

One thing I did enjoy theologically: the angels were a mix of races. So often in art, angels are merely Caucasian. Not so here! Matt, when he takes on flesh, is an African American. Revelation says that every nation, tribe, language, and people will rejoice before the Throne in heaven. While we’re not specifically told that angels have different “races” in the way we see them among humans, it makes sense to me and reflects well that should angels take human form, they would reflect our diversity, as well.

So, the characters and the theology are bad. The writing style leaves a lot to be desired. Is at least the plot any good?

The demons and angels are battling over Virginia’s soul because she is pregnant. The baby will be the first African-American President of the US. That’s the plot.

As a science fiction concept, I am comfortable with a malevolent force attacking a pregnant woman when the child will be important; it’s actually been a story that’s been told for a long time. Even as a Christian story, I can handle it. After all, Satan prompted Herod to attack Jesus when he was just a baby!

The plot idea isn’t a bad one, overall. However, carrying it to fruition is not the author’s strong suit. As already mentioned, a lengthy flashback to the fall of Lucifer does not aid the larger plot, despite it being the best-written portion of the novel. A great amount of space is dedicated to the police investigation surrounding Virginia; all of the officers wind up dead without ever meeting Virginia. Dead-end plot involvement! At the conclusion of the climax, the big bad guy survives and runs away. An angel mentions his death in the epilogue, just like that.

So, bad plot execution, bad character, bad prose choices, bad theology. Could it possibly get any worse?

Well, I could read the font. That was good.

I will not allow my children to read this book, in fear their view of literature will be so tarnished as to scare them from any reading ever again. No, I take that back. I may have they read it so they appreciate whatever they read in school more; really, what you’re required to read isn’t that horrible. Just compare to this!

So, don’t find this book and read it, unless you want an education in bad literature.

I’d like to forget I ever read it.

4 thoughts on “Dark Things

  1. Thanks so much for a great review Jon. The knowledge and depth of your theology is reflected in your balanced and fair comments… Dear friend, such a cursory review of the book reflects such a lack of understanding of the Word in it’s fulness, as to boggle the mind. Seriously.

    One’s opinion of the book is as free and available as the air we breath. Hate the book. Hate the writing style. Thank God, it’s a free country and one has that right and that choice. But dear friend, an honest, in depth book review–this, was not.

    Good Lord, where does one begin. I’m sorry. To go into an in depth explanation and refutation of your errant reading and review would I fear leave a work as lengthy, snide and dull as your own. So suffice to say to take one point for which you were at a loss for its reason in the book, and we will allow your readers to decide its efficacy to the book…

    The reason for the flashback regarding ‘Lucifer’…
    Most of us as Christians, and I dare say much less the rest of the world, have any kind of understanding regarding Lucifer/Satan and his origins and his subsequent rebellion. Nor the role he chose for himself in his personal opposition against God. Nor a good understanding of the role this vicious antagonist continues to play to day. Consequently, everything from Insurance policies to preachers label the severest tragedies that kill the innocent, babies and young children, as ‘acts of God’. The book endeavors to show something that the Bible strongly reflects for those familiar with its profound depths. That ‘satan’ was the author of ‘Death’ and it’s creation. Satan? Yes, Satan. In the book of 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 Paul makes a profound statement…”And the last ‘enemy’ that will be destroyed is Death”… And then the Book of Revelation reflects that both ‘Death and Hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire’. Hmmm. Don’t sound like friends of the Kingdom of God to me. God regards Death as an Enemy. Not friend, not associate, nor even a ‘pet’. But, unless Paul was delirious–an Enemy.

    Zombie Angel? Please. Cute modern catch phrase and along with ‘Vampires’ the hot topics in the world today, but definitely not an accurate definition of the subject in the book.

    Jon, sure you’re a great guy. But you just don’t get it. 15 out of the 17 reviews on Amazon and the large number of the 4-5 star ratings did, including among them a fellow author.

    Thanks for the review, but this was a diamond in the rough that just got past you. One might do better being easily attracted to the ‘shiny things. They, are easier to see…
    The author.

    1. Mr. Humphrey, I’d encourage you to do two things:

      1. Read some of Jon’s other reviews on this blog. You will note that he is quite talented at giving fair and balanced reviews that highlight the good and bad of any book he reads. Usually he is not this scathing, which to me sort of says something. If he had so much negative to say, maybe it was somewhat justified.

      2. Be a little more open to criticism. As a writer, you put your work out there, and it is bound to result in some really negative response, as well as potentially some positive. But if you take the time to really open yourself to the negative responses, you might find that what you thought were strengths of your writing are actually glaring negatives in the eyes of readers. Taking an unbiased view of our own writing is nearly impossible, so the honest voices of our critics, even when they have a lot of negative to say, can be very useful. You don’t do yourself credit or help by rejecting that.

      I’ll throw in a third, bonus encouragement: Don’t respond to a review telling the reviewer, “You missed the point of my book! It’s actually really good, you just didn’t understand it! Lots of other people liked it!” Methinks you doth protest too much…

    2. Mr. Humphrey, thanks for stopping by the blog! I posted this a good two and a half years ago, so most of your book has slipped back to where a lot of my reading ends up — a general memory, but not necessarily specifics. For that reason, I can’t go into specifics with your novel. It’s simply been too long since I’ve read it. I do want to mention a few things, though.

      You wrote: “But dear friend, an honest, in depth book review–this, was not.” Are you accusing the review of not being honest? I wrote exactly what I saw as well as how I responded. I have no “horse in the race” as they say. Why would I lie? Or, if you’re using the word “honest” in some other fashion… well, that’s not very clear.

      I will stand by my review, though as I’ve reread it, I do see it was rather bombastic. I recall having a strong reaction to the novel, and it was not positive.

      Let’s say I agreed with your theology (which I do not). Even if that were the case, the writing and plotting was sub-par. So, the fall of Satan interests you as an author? Fantastic! Write a book about that. Don’t write about a woman, modern day, who needs Jesus, not the fall of Satan. I remember reading those scenes and thinking that they had nothing to do with the story. You did have some great imagery in those scenes — but again, they had nothing to do with the plot as this reader saw it!

      I fear that, given your strong response, you wouldn’t take well to actually discussing theology in this format, so I won’t go into that unless you would like to.

      “Jon, sure you’re a great guy. But you just don’t get it. 15 out of the 17 reviews on Amazon and the large number of the 4-5 star ratings did, including among them a fellow author.”

      I read through those reviews. I noted that most of them were pretty vague as to what they found valuable, and none were the in-depth helpful reviews I personally like reading to help me determine whether or not to actually buy a book. And, I’m sure you would agree, just because someone says that something is good, doesn’t mean it is good.

      I’ll direct you to Brandon’s response to you, below. I thought he summed up rather well my reaction to your post here. If you read my other reviews, you’ll see I usually make a point of highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the various books I read. I also focused not just on your theology, but the craft of the writing.

      When God sent us his Word, he spent time crafting each word precisely. He didn’t say, “Well, this is true, so who cares if it’s a little sloppy?” We have the beauty of Isaiah, the poetry of the Psalms, the deep simplicity of John. As an author trying to represent him to others, doesn’t God deserve the same dedication to craft? I found that craft lacking in this novel, as I highlighted in the review. And this is something I will stand by.

  2. Dear Jon, and Brandon, I read your responses. Thank you for them both. Brandon, I appreciate your sincere and caring response. Jon is not the first individual to give a negative review of my book. And as a writer, one expects and does receive negative responses, and truly does seek to learn and grow from those responses. One learns to grow past the initial sting and seek for the legitimate constructive parts within. I do not see myself as a perfect author, nor my work as the perfect manuscript. Thankfully, I am under no such illusions…. Thank God. 🙂 Dark Things was my very first work. It was actually 10 years in the making. ( Ok, Jon, I heard that. I know, I know. It certainly didn’t look like it to you… I get it.) But it was. So Brandon, I take your words to heart and appreciate them. And I truly have done that with negative reviews of my book in the past. It was just that with Jon’s review, it appeared to me he went rather ‘overboard’, and well past ‘negative’. In my opinion, much closer to another ‘N’ word–‘Nuclear’. But as I said earlier, this IS America, and he has every right to his opinion. And he has voiced it. I leave it to the reader for him or her to decide if it is a bad as Jon says. I leave it to you. Should you have the chance to read it, you decide. And I would truly like to have your opinion of it. If you say it stinks, so be it. Enough said. If not, or somewhere in between. Again, enough said, so be it…

    Jon, I apologize. In my previous comments I actually gave what I considered a rather ‘hearty review’ of your review, of my work. I personally felt that your comments went well beyond the pale of merely a negative review. I felt that I then had the right to do the same thing. I was wrong. As Humans and even as Believers we all have different tastes, that is our right, and thank God, that is our privilege. We will never all like the same things, nor see images or even colors exactly the same way. That is how our Father has made us, and then has chosen to place us in a country where we can freely enjoy that privilege. Thank God for it. You indeed are entitled to your opinion and have expressed it well. Thank you for your opinion. I am light years away from being a great write (to which sentiments I’m sure you will heartily agree), but, merely tried to put into words a work that I hoped would somehow encourage Believers, and prompt unbelievers to think and consider the depth and reality of spiritual things…
    Thanks for your comments. God bless…
    David M Humphrey

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