Darkness Falls When Heroines Rise  

Those Who Walk In Darkness
John Ridley
Warner Books / 310 Pages / Hardcover

 

The freaks come out at night...the evening, at dusk, and even the morning. In John Ridley's futuristic novel, Those Who Walk In Darkness (Warner ISBN 0-446-53093-X), there is a different kind of criminal. No longer are the gang-bangers and dope dealers on the top ten most wanted lists. Even foreign terrorists have taken a back seat to the criminal du jour in Ridley's work.

The earth is now crawling with mutants. Evil ones. Inbred concoctions made up of part human, part monster, and part machine. There are pyrokinetics (fire-breathing heathens that cannot be destroyed by knives, 357's, nine millimeters, or even assault rifles.) There are shapeshifters, metal-morphers, and telepaths. Only through the use of un-sanctioned superadvanced technology such as phosphorus bullets, can some of these mutants be stopped. An advanced weapon is exactly what the story's heroine uses to save the day and lose her job as a member on an ultra-elite police for known as MTac.

Soledad O'Roark, an African-American, is one of two women on the elite force. After watching her partners get singed, charcoaled and disintegrated, Soledad annihilates a mutant with a phosphorus bullet only to find out later, the act demotes her to a desk job with no weapon, not even a pea shooter.

Abrasive and feisty, Soledad takes the reader through several periods of reflection which hint to her make-up. Like many people, devoted to nothing else but their careers, she has no time for family and even less time to make a family of her own. When a stranger asks her for a date, but not a date-date, just an almost date, Soledad spends a cozy evening with him at an auto shop where they watch the front end of her Honda get repaired. As a rough cop she's untouchable. As a romantic she's also untouchableóliterally.

After being reduced to a desk jockey, Soledad becomes the subject of an internal investigation for the use of her illegal bullet. Her burden is slightly lifted when her superiors release her back into the street, but only as a beat cop with only a small revolver.

The first day back on the street aside her new donut-wielding partner, Soledad manages to thrust herself into what she believes is yet another mutant attack. Reacting only as she knows how, the situation seems grim and Soledad takes one good shot, at the flying mutant, killing it in broad daylight only to later find the mutant was a miracle- maker, a real angel.

Soledad may be some sort of synonym for Black Woman With Horrible Happenstance, Bad Luck and Even Worse Karma, but it's enjoyable to watch her train wreck of a life and hope the next chapter will bring a better outcome.

John Ridley is an iconoclast. An African-American writer with a strong reputation in TV and film known for writing and producing stories of significance save for his comedic departure to the film Undercover Brother. If nothing else, the departure proved that he was diverse and willing to take risks.

The author takes another risk with Those Who Walk In Darkness. The writing is terse. His narrative is almost evasive in that it gives only enough to keep the reader aware. Ridley seems to evoke a screenplay format to jostle back and forth from the dialogue to the narrative. It is a bold device and sometimes a misplaced one. Ultimately, what transpires is a fast-paced read with wildly creative characters and scenarios.

Others such as Walter Mosley and Octavia Bulter have either journeyed or tiptoed through this supernatural genre of fiction, but not in the manner of Ridely and none with the ability to expand the novel into other mediums. The novel has become an animated film released directly to DVD. The voice of Soledad O'Roark is none other than the infamous Lil' Kim.

Those Who Walk In Darkness is a well-written thriller with experimental narrative and realistic dialogue that seems to leap from the movie screen instead of the pages of a book. With an expansive audience, animation form will capture in, Ridley has raised the bar for getting messages to the masses.

Ridley discusses the assault on society by foreign radical mutants and he also examines our heroes by exposing their faults. It is a trip into a world years away, but only a few blocks from everyday life.


Brian Egeston is a writer living in Stone Mountain, Georgia. His has just written and released two novels simultaneously. Catfish Quesadillas & The Big Money Match. Visit his website at www.brianwrites.com.