Reviewed by Christian
D.M. Siciliano’s Under the Sun is a deceptive piece of work. Featuring a strange female protagonist, Ravynn, the novel veers in differing directions as the plot unfolds. From the first lines, Siciliano is playing on a number of different genres.
“A crack in time saves 99”
But what do those ominous words mean? Ray is about to find out, whether he’s ready or not. His ‘deceased’ twin sister, Ravynn, is warning him of impending disaster, but Ray can’t seem to convince himself, or his wife, that he’s not crazy. But Ray isn’t the only one communicating with his sister. Ravynn’s surviving daughter, Amelia, seems to know things that defy reason, in a time when reason is slowly slipping away. When Ray’s brother-in-law offers evidence of something terrible coming in the form of prophetic journals Ravynn wrote before her death, Ray can’t doubt the truth any longer. The world is falling down. The family struggles to hold themselves together as the world they once knew and understood begins to collapse all around them, leading up to a cataclysmic end. Can Ray save his family in time?
Focused on a family in danger
It’s unclear how to even classify the book but probably apocalyptic fiction is the most appropriate. In broad strokes, a reader of Stephen King will be in familiar territory with allusions to The Shining, The Dark Tower, and Under the Dome(even the novel’s name echoes King). There are other King books that appear to be present but naming them might spoil the ending. Still, Siciliano is not directly lifting the plot or even themes, but the tell-tale signs of being familiar are all there.
The question for King as for Siciliano, alas, does it matter? Apocalyptic fiction, whether political (Orwell, Ayn Rand, Alan Moore) or more personal and spiritual (George RR Martin, Pat Roberston), suffers from the dilemma of engrossing us in a large world with many characters or a few. Siciliano favors the latter approach and the story is firmly focused on a family in danger. Ironically, while Ravynn is a constant presence in the novel, Ray, her brother, is the real triumph. His emotions and bearing feel real and believable. To be sure, it is a bit annoying Ray takes as long as he does to put the mystery of Ravyn together. But, the befuddled protagonist is often what any horror fiction has to have at the beginning.
Some new twists on an old formula
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast of characters come off as too generic and borrowed archetypes. Nevertheless, the plot progresses at a good pace. The prose style is fairly solid. The cosmic creepiness when it begins to set in is well done. Siciliano is attentive to detail situating many events in California making her apocalypse credible.
More experienced horror fans will probably guess much of the final sections. But a more beginning and intermediate reader will appreciate Siciliano attempting some new twists on an old formula. The book is not ground-breaking and the twist when it is revealed is fairly clever. But readers will probably divide whether Siciliano’s revelations come off as more too-clever than just clever enough.
Ravynn and her dilemma aren’t as gripping as Martin’s females who also walk the fine line between the spiritual and utterly horrific. Doing stories with a predetermined ending is a tough road anyone dabbling in Chosen Ones and so on will be saddled with and Siciliano (mostly) keeps us on a solid path to the finale.
A highly recommended read
For a writer who is early in her career, this shows enormous promise and while not as scary as King’s best work does an effective job of keeping the reader engaged and asking questions. It does not have King’s touch of (admittedly, graphic) humor. Yet it also, thankfully, lacks King’s trademark needless gore. The horror when it is doled is pretty proportionate and what one would expect with the world coming to a close.
If you enjoy the magic wizard – or more witch in this case – category then this book will be eminently satisfying. One or two plot elements will come off as far too convenient; still, on the whole, D.M. Siciliano has constructed a fairly effective construct. Her fiction is far above average but still, frankly, suffers from trying to wow us with secret exposed after secret exposed. A highly recommended read but one should be mild expecting anything truly novel; Under the Sun is a great synthesis of past horror but not the new step the apocalyptic genre needs to revitalize itself.
About the Author
DM is a lover of all things creative. From the moment she could speak, growing up in Massachusetts, she had a passion for flair and drama, putting on concerts for anyone who was even remotely interested (and even for those who were not). A storyteller by nature, she first pursued her young dream of becoming a singing diva while living in Arizona. She soon found that stage life wasn’t the only form of storytelling she craved, so she dropped the mic and picked up a pencil instead. She still hasn’t given up on her diva-ness, and hopes her pencil stays as sharp as her tongue.
A dark sense of humor and curiosity for haunted houses and things out of the ordinary led her down the path of completing her first novel, Inside. Several other projects are constantly floating around in her head and her laptop daily, and sometimes keeping her up much too late at night. Occasionally, those projects are so dark and twisted, she needs to leave a nightlight on.
She now lives in Northern California with her two fluffy furbabies, Cezare and Michaleto.
Want to know more about DM. Siciliano? Check out her website here
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