Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Heavens Rise, by Christopher Rice - A Review

The Heavens RiseThe Heavens Rise by Christopher  Rice
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a chillingly compelling novel that puts me in mind of Lovecraft, Christopher Rice pulls the reader through the swamp and through some of the ugliest fears which promise to swim to the surface time and time again in the most casual and mundane of circumstances. The Heavens Rise, the first Christopher Rice novel I've read, I was struck by how quickly Rice can create a completely vile yet readable character,and at the same time how well he developed multi-faceted and flawed heroes. Rice wove themes of privilege, greed, pride, and volition with sadism, horror, and regret into something terrible and wonderful. 
Rice writes strong female characters, though they only barely pass the Bechdel Test. For instance, I believe that at one point Nikki, around whose fate the entire story hinges, and her mother discuss party plans, and at another point, Marissa and a caricature of wealth and privilege exchange less than cordial words at a benefit. However, despite one of the central characters being a black woman and issues of race being featured prominently throughout the story, The Heavens Rise would not fare so well if the Bechdel Test were applied based on race, requiring two named characters who weren't white to have a conversation that wasn't about a white person. 
Regardless, it was an enjoyable book that kept me up far too late into the night. There is something about a dark and watery Lovecraftian menace and a tale of metamorphosis that also puts one in mind of his mother's work, that makes it hard to set a book down. Rice's word choice, always raw and in character, drew me in and repelled in equal parts. The characters who the audience inhabited stand out with unique and contrasting voices that reminded me of what I liked best about World War Z. 
If you're looking for something chilling, unexpected, and filled with gruesome and detached violence, or you need another reason to test your water, this is the book for you. 

You can read more of my lengthier reviews on Goodreads, or my short and sweet reviews on Biblivoracious.

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