I had an advance review copy of another novella published by DarkFuse by an author that I had never read before so I was, as always, eager to see what surprises this book had in store for me and hoping to be scared silly by a new talent that is destined to become a favorite as many authors that I have been introduced to by this publisher have become. With that in mind, I tore into “Conduits” by Jennifer Loring.
Mara’s life has been full of tragedy but she has come to grips with it. At least, she thinks she has, cutting herself when the pain gets too bad to prove that she can handle the pain as well as to release her mental anguish into the physical realm. This all comes to a crashing end when her boyfriend dies and she visits a haunted house at her friend’s begging. The pain that Mara has struggled to overcome all comes crashing back upon her and she soon finds herself locked away in the psychiatric ward of a hospital.
Mara has been here before when her life unraveled after the tragedy that struck her family. Her grip on reality is slowing slipping as she deals with the strange patients that she encounters as well as the ghosts and memories that haunt her. Mara does not know if the ghosts are just her memories or if they are real and using her as a conduit into the real world. Regardless of the answer, the horror that they bring may be too much for her to handle.
“Conduits” is a book that is sure to keep the reader on edge throughout the story. Loring uses a lot of imagery in the book to express the confusion and fear that Mara is feeling and this also serves to keep the reader from settling into a comfort zone while reading the story. Instead, the reader always has a sense that there is something lurking around the corner, or on the next page in this case, but not knowing what that something might be other than the fact that it is sure to be something terrible. The narrative of the story is disjointed and forces the reader to focus on the text to try and piece the truth together. While this may not appeal to some readers, I thought that it did a good job of presenting the story in a manner that fit in with the confused state of the main character. There are no easy answers here and Loring does a good job of providing the clues but making it difficult to piece them together.
While “Conduits” is a short novella, it is still a powerful story that packs a punch that will leave the reader reeling and thinking about the story days after the last page is read. Loring’s use of imagery to illustrate the confused state of Mara’s mind is just as haunting as the ghosts that are lurking within the story. It is also possible that there are no ghosts here and that Mara’s “haunting” is nothing more than the remnants of a broken soul after it has been shattered by tragedy. The true power of this story is that there are no clear answers as to what exactly is happening to Mara. She may be a conduit for the spirit world to our own or she may be a victim of the cruel world who has created the ghosts to try and make sense of the tragedy that seems to surround her. It is trying to figure out the truth of this tale that makes it so good.
I would like to thank DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Conduits” is scheduled to be released by DarkFuse in September and is available for preorder now.