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Posted October 11, 2010
This was not a perfect book. Interior monologue dizzied me, morphing into hard-to-follow interior dialogue. A dearth of contractions made the actual dialogue seem stilted in some places. A few scenes were improbable; others strangely saccharine.
I loved it.
Despite its flaws, despite its glitches, despite even the format in which I read the book (PDF), this book captivated me. Charles, Julia, Cleveland, Cotton-even Fah-reese-were vivid and believable characters. I suppose this was partly because of their internal conversations. The realism that the dark men (and woman) lent to their respective characters more than compensated for the clunky nature of the back and forth.
The relationship between Charles and Julia made the book come alive. After the somewhat contrived conversion scene, the book zoomed along to a highly emotional climax that left me feeling bittersweet. In the end, Charles's love for Julia, for Cleveland, for his father made me forgive all of The Dark Man's faults. Another winner from Marcher Lord Press.
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Posted January 14, 2011
Even though I've read through this novel twice now, and digested it as well as I could, I still find it difficult to know what to make of The Dark Man as a whole. I could focus on only one aspect on the novel and criticize it negatively or neutrally, depending on what aspect I was looking at. But that would be unfair, because this novel has affected by thinking greatly since I first read it, giving me a new metaphor to examine my own life. It is a powerful story, though not so much in the emotional sense that people usually mean when they call a work of fiction "powerful."
Part of my difficulty with interpreting The Dark Man is that I'm unfamiliar with its genre. I wish that I had read some of Stephen King's novels, as well as the fundamental Christian speculative and spiritual warfare works by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. Since I haven't read any of those, my suspicion that The Dark Man may have certain similarities to the styles and techniques in those works is, of course, nothing but a suspicion. I have been calling The Dark Man paranormal, and I know that is has been compared to The Twilight Zone (some of the episodes of which I have seen). The difficulty in comparing The Dark Man to The Twilight Zone is that in The Dark Man, the paranormal elements have very little impact upon reality. There are a lot of bizarre visions, as well as the anomalous character of the dark man for which the book is named. The visions have meaning in regard to the plot line, but they never accomplish anything physical, as far as I can tell. Any possibility that the visions may be directly spiritual seems to be refuted by the story, where an important character says that the dark man cannot be a demon. Therefore, The Dark Man is not primarily a spiritual warfare novel. In fact, it is not even extremely speculative, although it has a sense of unexplainable mystery that justifies its claim to be speculative.
Most, but not all, of the content of the visions in the story could be explained as psychological phenomena. However, it's not accurate to say that they are only psychological. Nearly every major character in the novel is shown to have some sort of internal psychological dialog at one time or another. Surely they all can't merely be hallucinating! Furthermore, they share common elements in their visions. The dark man is primarily a part of Charles and is the main subject of many of his visions, but other characters also see the dark man, even if they don't know what it is. My theory is that these visions and internal conversations are abstractions or personifications. They represent the inner spiritual struggles and psychological confusion that the characters face. The characters all think they're just crazy, or simply just dreaming, and in the cases of the protagonist and the main supporting character, the internal conversations are indeed somehow related to the characters' psychological states. Early in the novel, a vision seems to be a real supernatural enemy during an intense spiritual battle. However, in both cases, I believe that the visions are only visualizations of the psychological and spiritual drama, more directed to the reader than to the fictional characters. That the characters see and interact with these visions is the mysterious paranormal element of the story, which I believe intentionally defies explanation.
Going beyond the inability to interpret the speculative elements in the context of the literal
Posted September 28, 2010
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His name is Charles Graves. He can wear any face; imitate any voice; fit in anywhere. His work for the Agency is legendary, especially among the hidden clusters of Christians he has helped uncover and "reclaim." His father and only remaining family, Senator Cotton Graves, loves him. His coworker, relentless logic-girl Julia Jenkins, will do anything for him. His competition, Agency hot-shot Richard Farris, is determined to discredit him.
But no one, least of all Charles himself, really knows who Charles Graves is.
Haunted by his traumatic childhood and equally addicted to alcohol and playing with a wood-block puzzle, Charles turns himself into other people in a desperate attempt to escape himself. On assignment to find the Reverend James Cleveland, a dangerous preacher on the loose in downtown Houston, Charles is just minutes away from the crowning success of his career-until he sees the light in Cleveland's arresting presentation of the gospel.
Suddenly, Charles has changed sides and plunged himself, Julia, Cotton, and Cleveland into a pitched battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil-a battle that will bring each one face-to-face with their reality's most startling, life-changing truths.
Marc Schooley's dystopian novel The Dark Man is an elegantly written psychological drama that's nearly as spell-binding as one of James Cleveland's sermons.
While the book contains plenty of action-movie chases, espionage, and helicopter fights, where it really stands out is in its gripping exploration of the human mind and spirit. Farris, Cotton, Julia, and especially the tormented Charles carry on conversations with themselves, their memories, and their hopes that are revealing, disturbing, and sometimes profound. Into their struggles, the voice of the gospel offers peace and the power of redemptive sacrifice.
The Dark Man is a powerful introduction to Marc Schooley and another memorable offering from Marcher Lord Press.
- Rachel Starr Thomson, author of The Seventh World Trilogy: Worlds Unseen, Burning Light, and Coming Day
Posted October 31, 2009
In Texas undercover agent Charles Graves, the man with a thousand faces, is assigned to destroy the last remaining powerful Christian leader in the United States, Reverend James Cleveland. As he gathers evidence, Charles goes to arrest Reverend Cleveland, but suddenly hears voices in his head insisting he heed the message his target proclaims.
This turns Charles from a cynic to a believer in God. He quits his law enforcement position and works to protect James and the word against his former associates, which includes his father. However, the Dark Man from his past urges him to forget this Christian nonsense and take care of himself especially when his former comrades are searching to assassinate him as a traitor. Charles has to choose between standing up for God or standing up with the Dark Man who haunts his breathing.
This is a fascinating but grim future tale that has Big Brother (and Sister) watching you ready to prance and harass. Charles is a terrific conflicted protagonist pulled schizoid like in two directions. Although The Dark Man inside his head also appears inside other people's brains abating the issue of the hero's sanity, fans will relish this profound look at persecution as religious tolerance is unacceptable.
Posted June 11, 2009
Review by Jill Williamson
In this near-future psychological thriller, undercover agent Charles Graves is working to bring down the last remnants of Christians in Texas. Charles is capable of the ultimate disguises, like the kind that Tom Cruise uses in the Mission Impossible movies. Charles' assignment: bring down Reverend James Cleveland, the one remaining influential Christian leader in the US.
Just before Charles can arrest Cleveland, he hears God's voice through the Reverend's message. Charles surrenders his heart to God right there and goes awol. Now Charles is working against his former colleagues, including his own father. Charles' dark past continues to haunt him in the form of a wooden puzzle from his childhood. This "dark man" argues with Charles, urging him to look out for Charles and Charles alone. As Charles tries to serve his new God, he must continually stand up to the dark man of his past.
I thought this book was excellent! It started out with a fascinating slow-pace that, for some reason, reminded me of when I read 1984. I think it was the way Schooley created his future world. It was as if anyone in the government could be watching you, waiting to arrest you for the smallest infraction.
When Charles converts to Christianity, the story turns into a chase. Charles' ex-comrades are seeking to bring him down, but Charles needs to rescue some people and avert a major disaster without being caught. I liked how everyone had a voice in their head, I thought it was an interesting way to look at how people struggle with decision making and temptation. This is a deep, thought-provoking novel and well worth a read.