A Book Review: An Other Place by Darren Dash

I recently had the privilege of receiving an advanced copy of Darren Dash’s new novel to review, it has been a true thrill to be one of the first people to cast an eye on the latest work from the talented Mr Dash. Here are my thoughts.

 

An Other Place is the third novel by Darren Dash the adult alias of bestselling YA author Darren Shan. Darren’s tales of vampires, demons and the un-dead have chilled the spines of millions across the globe and earned him the title of the Master of Young Adult Horror. But although a healthy helping of gore and scares are guaranteed in his books for younger readers, all of the author’s adult works have taken the reader in a multitude of diverse new directions and An Other Place is no exception.

 

The novel tells the intriguingly bizarre story of Newman Riplan, an excessive self-centered I.T. wizard whose world is turned upside down when a weekend-long drink and drugs binge charts the course for a bewildering journey.

 

When we first meet Newman Riplan, the self proclaimed King Kong of troubleshooters (or I.T. Engineer in plain English), he is in Amsterdam vanquishing viruses from corporate computer systems. While the pretentious Mr. Riplan is at the top of his industry, he has always played harder than he’s worked and the lure of the city’s red light district and his penchant for ladies of the night soon draw him away from his desk.

 

As he’s enjoying the sights and sensations of the city, Newman discovers his old mates Hughie and Battles are in town, and they quickly resolve to meet-up for drinks. As the pages turn, a few pints swiftly transform into a narcotics-fuelled spree, and when Newman finds himself on a plane full of seemingly inanimate wax mannequins, things take a disorientating turn that would leave Hunter S. Thompson scratching his head in disbelief.

 

 

An Other Place is a deliciously quirky novel that is surreal and powerful in equal measure. In the pages of the book Dash has crafted a meticulously detailed alternate reality complete with its own folklore and societal eccentricities. Another standout feature of the story is how well the author amalgamates genres, mixing together sci-fi and horror with fantastical elements to create a wonderfully weird cocktail.

 

Its immersive storyline drags the reader back and forth between light-hearted scenes underscored by black comedy to morally questionable sequences that hit with the impact of a locomotive.

 

This is by far Dash’s best work to date. It is challenging and absurd, artistically brave and politically conscious, but this abstract painting of a novel is one thing above all else…

completely original.

 

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The Creative Yin and Yang

This is a story that has gone through various incarnations in its time and an earlier version of it was aired on the amazing ‘Mailman’s Survival Guide to the Galaxy’ podcast. I first wrote it a while ago when I started to notice a recurring feature that can be found lurking in the backstory of countless great artists from multiple mediums. The link between creativity and melancholy is one that intrigues and terrifies me in equal measure and after hours spend  pondering exactly what it is that haunts the souls of so many talented people, I think I’ve worked out the answer.    

 

There is a powerful force that silently possesses all of mankind’s artists. It is the energy that drives their consciousness and determines their worldviews. It is there at the hazy inception of the idea and the happy conclusion of the piece, watching and interjecting. From the first cave drawings, etched in stone by prehistoric visionaries to the last hypnotic swirl in the skyline of Van Gough’s Starry Night, it has always been there in the soul of every creator.

 

It is an intoxicating entity that resides within authors, coursing through their bodies as they write their narratives, filling each paragraph with flowing prose and vibrant imagery. It inhabits the minds of artists as they paint their masterpieces, slides down into their arms and governs the placement of every colourful brushstroke.

 

It is the force that reinvigorates the hands of poets as they hold their tired pens and waits in the corners of rappers mouths as they recite their bars to lively crowds.

 

It surges through the cores of actors as they begin to embody their roles, helping them remember their lines and capture the nuances of the scenes.

It departs the actors on the sets as they prepare for their first takes and disappears behind the cameras where the directors lay in wait. Into the filmmakers’ heads it goes, dashing from sequence to sequence, as it brings the scripts to life in their imaginations and quickly clarifies the last few muddled shots before the cameras start to roll.

 

It plants melodies and lyrics into the hearts of singers as they perform on stage and makes itself comfortable within the fingers of musicians as they strum their guitar strings.

 

It is both a blessing and a curse; as harsh as it is wise and as cutting as it is generous. It is the insightful deity that enables fledgling talents to ascend to the top of their mediums and the cold-hearted demon that fills them with self-doubt.

 

It guides the hands of writers and journalists, giving them the fuel to meet their deadlines, but it leaves them to cower behind their computers as their next assignments arrive.

 

It is both friend and foe to thespians and comedians, as it supports them on the stage but it shrouds them in despondency when the curtain falls again.

 

It abandons poets and sculptors as they beg for the muse to arise, leaving them alone in their misery before returning to work its magic at another time.

 

It is the entity that lets them feel emotions deeper as they experience life’s pleasures and pains, allowing them to see the sun shine brighter as they bask within its rays.

 

It is beautiful and callous, triumphant and cruel.

 

It is the tightrope of madness and genius that all creators walk.

 

It is the creative yin and yang.