When the opportunity to review Darren Dash’s latest novel presented itself to me, I snatched at it with eager grabbing hands. Having enjoyed his previous book, Sunburn, Dash had already proved to me that he’s not afraid to go in hard and fast, taking his writing to places that the average writer fears to tread. This book is no different.
I won’t be recommending this book to my mother, as An Other Place is far from a crowd pleaser. I was advised by the author before I began that this may not be my cup of tea. And that would be okay. But by golly, this book really did blow my mind. It stretched my imagination in weird new ways, made me think, sent me soaring and then crashing back down to earth (ha! Inside joke) with one hell of a bang.
An Other Place treats you to deep point of view, giving the reader an intimate seat inside the mind of troubleshooter Newman Riplan. When Riplan is transported to a strange fantastical world, both him and reader are kept in the dark as he explores. Being limited to experiencing only what our protagonist goes through makes this journey all the more effective in its delivery.
In the beginning, we get a definite sense of a situation that’s spiralling upwards, but no real idea of what’s going on or what is coming. Much of the novel is disorienting in this way. I frequently found myself feeling as lost as the main character, feeling my way through the dark with a tiny light, not quite knowing what to expect. Each page turn was both chilling and thrilling in equal measure.
The main character is generally likeable, but far from perfect. In his worst moments I found myself
utterly repelled, and yet, he always managed to be compelling -- sometimes in all the wrong ways. My reactions to him as a character were varied, which I found refreshing.
What's more, An Other Place really appealed to my dark sense of humour and love of the bizarre. To sum this book up in three words, I’d have to go with ‘weird and wonderful’. Like a mystery slowly unravelling and tangling, it constantly kept me guessing.
Darren Dash masterfully manipulates the reader in his chosen direction, changing the mood and pace of the book at will with little to no warning. This made it difficult to put down. I found myself constantly wondering what could possibly happen next.
I really liked how truly demented this book is. The story gets weirder and weirder as you go along. I'd become used to being in one place and then the story would twist, leaving me disoriented once more. Each time you think that things can’t possibly get any worse, they do and you’re presented with a new level of worse.
Despite not agreeing with every decision our main character makes, he displays an admirable amount of grit and determination throughout which, in turn, allows us to maintain some sort of an emotional connection throughout the book. This, I feel, is very important.
An Other Place gets darker and more grisly as the story progresses, giving a haunting, eerie sense of isolation that seeps into your bones. I spent the majority of the story feeling like something is ‘off’, but was unable to put a finger on exactly what. As a reader, there is never a moment where you are truly relaxed and comfortable. The more I discovered, the more it made my head reel.
Overall, this has to be one of the strangest book I’ve ever read. Through its ups and downs, there always seemed to be an unsettling undercurrent buzzing away in the back of my mind. Towards the end of the book, the reader is rewarded with the answers to some secrets and certain mysteries are made clear. However, these revelations only seem to offer yet more questions which, once again, send the cogs of my mind spinning at high speed.
The conclusion to this strange tail left me with goosebumps, chilling in impact and meaning. I felt oddly pensive as I read the last sentence, unsure of exactly how to feel. Dash leaves the reader with lots to think about. I now want to start again from the beginning, reading with the hindsight and prior knowledge I have.
My overall score? 5/5!
You can grab yourself a copy of An Other Place from the links below in ebook or paperback format. Let me know what you think!
Author of short fiction and journals for writers.