Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Cody Goodfellow's Radiant Dawn Trilogy! Complete review
In The Shadow of Swords by Cody Goodfellow
Cody Goodfellow is my favorite writer from my generation of horror writers, I have written at length about his work. I decided to re-read his first trilogy of works the Radiant Dawn trilogy.
It starts with a Chapbook novella(44 pages) prequel called “In the Shadow of Swords.” This insanely detailed a researched novella is a barn burner. It is far more directly Lovecraftian than Radiant Dawn. It tells the story of A UN weapons detection team searching 1998 Iraq for banned weapons. The cool thing is Cody did such a great job with the setting, that if I didn’t know better I would assume he worked in Iraq at one time for the UN.
The story builds to the reveal of a hole in the earth like a bathtub drain that was plugged and holding in crazy-ness of a cosmic horror beyond our imagination. Not beyond Cody’s imagination thankfully. This has a very traditional horror reveal that manages to downright creepy. Super worth the $7 cover price.
Radiant Dawn by Cody Goodfellow
And then Radiant Dawn. This was Cody’s first novel and it was met with a firestorm of hyperbole on release. It is so strong of a first novel that many found it hard to believe. What I find hard to believe is that Cody was not bought out by a big mass market publisher but hey this novel is not only amazing but it is different, unique and probably to smart for New York publishers to understand or market.
Something I didn’t get the first time was the amazing subtext. You see Radiant Dawn is a monster novel sure, and while still fiction the monsters are in sense very real and already feared by millions in our society. How many of us can relate directly to fearing the monster that is Cancer. In this novel a cult wants to use Cancer to jumpstart the next phase of human evolution by using Cancer cells.
Radiant Dawn is Lovecraftian but not in a traditional YogSagothing way, Goodfellow re-invents the mythos in modern way. At the same time he creates a detailed universe populated by cool characters. Not the least of which is Spike Team Texas, a team of former special forces in a secret war is defend humanity. Cody Goodfellow has grown a lot as a writer since then. At times this book is wordy and over written compared to his current work.
That being said this is an amazing first novel, few writers have come out of the gates with such skill and strength. This was my second time and well worth a second spin.
The word epic as been tortured by over use in recent slang but the word fits like a glove here. To say that this book is a Lovecraftian epic is an understatement. Elder gods, saggoths, government conspiracy, military battles, race issues all these issues get one of Goodfellow's tenticle touch. It all ends in a satisfying ending that works unlike Stephen King's huge epics.
I think of this as part three in the radiant trilogy, if you count the novella prologue chapbook. I do, this novel pays off the brief touches of the Lovecraftian mythos which are more clear in the chapbook than the first novel. I remember the first time I read Radiant Dawn I kept thinking where is the Lovecraft? The mythos stuff takes center stage in the Ravenous Dusk for sure. Not only that but the book becomes an in direct sequel of sorts to LoveCraft's classic novella “At the mountains of madness.” Goodfellow connects the dots from the mythology explained in that classic novel to the government conspiracy and secret war that he cooked up in Radiant Dawn.
The story of Saggoths using technology to radiate humans to evolve into the next step up the ladder is not only Lovecraftian but in a way it's also Cronenberg-ish body horror and the hybrid is what makes the Radiant trilogy original, interesting and above all fun. The action is over the top and worthy of a John Woo stunt team and the horrific descriptions of the mutations are gross and funny at the same time.
At times the book comes off like Military science fiction, and the creation of of a badass team of mutant ex-special forces dudes named Spike Team Texas is probably my favorite chapter. None the less so much story is packed into the 580 pages it is surprising it didn't actually take more.
I am a huge Goodfellow fan, this is an amazing work of horror fiction but as a friend and reader I can tell you he has grown a lot as a writer since this book was finished.
This book breaks one of the fundamental rules we as writers have drilled into us. We are always told “show don't tell” and this book has hundreds of pages of telling. I am not sure goodfellow could have done anything else as complicated as this story is, but entire chapters consist of characters explaining what is happening behind scenes in conversation. For that reason The chapbook and the first novel tend to be the stronger entries in the trilogy as the mystery was still intact.
That being said it still a fantastic trilogy and it is more unbelievable when you consider that this is a first time author working almost without an outside editor. The Radiant Trilogy is a fantastic achievement, I would not start your Goodfellow journey with it. His more recent novel A Perfect Union and his Wonderland award winning collection “Silent weapons for Quiet Wars” are a better place to start. After you read those then it is time to dip into the madness and glory that is the Radiant Trilogy.