by Ron Ripley
Fast-paced and full of gore. The first book is by far the best. Shane Ryan is different than usual main characters; in his forties, scarred and completely hairless due to fear causing it all to fall out.
Lots of unique uses of the subject material, but it always reminded me of other things. The shifting rooms in places made me think of the horror movie House, the iron being used on the dead, and the salting and burning of the bones, of course, the TV show Supernatural. I know these ideas are likely far older than those, but it seems impossible to think they weren’t an influence.
The problems with this are easy to say; once you get past the first book, it ceases to be horror and becomes action with horror elements. That is fine, but the suspense is pretty much blown when you know Shane, no matter how much he gets hurt, is going to fight the ghosts directly and win. He also ceases to have any real character development. That is also fine in a way; suffering from loads of trauma before the story even begins and taking more and more physical and mental damage as the books go on, it’s understandable, but that doesn’t make him interesting. In the first story seeing him as a child and dealing with the problem as a grown-up is excellent, but that just stops.
Shane also has some power that lets him instantly learn a language when heard and to gain strength from the dead if they lend their support, allowing him to harm ghosts directly. This is never truly explained why, except in a small way that would be a spoiler. He can just do these things. Are they psychic or supernatural? Who knows, the story just expects you to go with it. Considering he is also a highly trained marine, he is often left with little threat as the books go on.
The supporting characters aren’t much better; he eventually meets another military man with about as much personality as him and similar combat skills, minus the powers. The stories are filled with various ghosts that do get a fair bit of background, but that’s about it. To say it bluntly, read this for the action and gore, not character work.
And well, that action and gore are pretty great. The author comes up with some dark and twisted things, and despite its turn into action, many horrific things still happen. There are some truly creative scenarios going on here with how crazy the ghosts are, and I found each one to be fresh and never repetitive.
One other minor problem I had, though, was at the end of every book, there is a section that explores the past of whatever was going on. It was an attempt to fill in background details, but I found it unnecessary, and it damaged the mystery. I didn’t need it all spelled out for me. Maybe others will like that better, though.
After nine books, the idea was quite exhausted, and so was I. But I had a lot of fun with this one.
**** Four out of Five Stars (Good)