Forced to give up her child at the age of sixteen, recovering drug addict Rain now lives a life in the shadows of regret and plagued by nightmares. When she finds herself running extraordinarily late for a job interview, she's discovers she's even later than imagined - Rain has, inexplicably, lost an entire day and has no memory of the twenty-four hours between Thursday and Saturday. Dejected, Rain encounters a mysterious woman on her train ride home who gives her a pair of cracked glasses and then vanishes. When looking through the fractured lens, Rain catches glimpse of people otherwise unseen...including a strange young boy in the company of an even stranger, older man - a man she knows as Doctor Nine, a man who has been haunting her nightmares.
Jonathan Maberry is a hugely prolific author, and one that I wish I could say I've read more of over the years. Although he's perhaps best known for his Joe Ledger series, I've only previously read his zombie stuff, the YA Rot & Ruin series and Dead of Night. I enjoyed those five titles quite a lot, but they did little to prepare me for what to expect here.
Glimpse is a far cry from those zombie thrillers, and Maberry crafts here a complicated, twisty, layered work of horror. I spent a good long while puzzling over how the various pieces and characters fit together while Maberry constructed and slowly built this tapestry of damaged characters and haunting encounters within New York and the strange, ethereal land of The Fire Zone. This is an assuredly more complex story than those earlier, straight-forward zombie pulps. It also has a surprising amount of depth to it, and the amount of information and story within belies the page count. When I say Glimpse feels like a much longer work, I mean this in the best possible sense. This one's a dense little sucker, hefty in its ideas and methodical execution.
Glimpse also feels a heck of a lot like the offspring of Joe Hill's NOS4A2, and I couldn't help but wonder how inspired Maberry was by that earlier work, or if this book would have existed without Hill's influence. There's a lot of commonalities between the two books, circling a number of similar themes and occurrences, and while they share a lot of the same genetic material (a strange villain capable of maneuvering between this world and another by way of a uniquely identifiable classic car, and The Fire Zone is almost a direct inverse of Christmasland), Glimpse stands well enough on its own, and Maberry is certainly comfortable enough in his own authorial skin, for this work to feel similar without being a derivative retread of the other.
At it's core, Maberry is writing about hope and redemption, of fighting for a better life in times of hopelessness. I would have liked to have seen more of the nicely creepy Doctor Nine, but the apocalyptic intonations and mythological folklore baked into the character are absolutely wonderful. Glimpse slowly builds toward a catastrophic, potentially apocalyptic, climax whose scale so terrifyingly casts a huge shadow over the characters that you can't help but feel a foreboding sense of hopelessness. The question then, of course, is how, or even if, Rain and her small support group of recovering addicts, can possibly overcome the all-encompassing terror surrounding them.
It's heady stuff, and Maberry does a remarkable job strumming all the various strings he's pulled together here. Glimpse is loaded with great characters, and I'd be remiss not to mention the tattooed psychic PI, Monk, who deserves a book of his own one day, and some very well depicted moments of fright and terror. All of this is wrapped up in a mind- and time-bending, perfectly executed, package.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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