DarkFuse has been publishing a lot of books that are based on Lovecraft’s mythos recently, such as “Lurker” and “Menace” by Gary Fry and “Mirror of the Nameless” by Luke Walker, so I was not surprised when I saw the cover for “Dead Five’s Pass” by Colin F. Barnes. The cover art just screams Cthulhu so I dug into the book expecting more chills and scares of a Lovecraftian tale of terror.
An emergency call comes through from the Canadian Rockies. A young woman and her boyfriend have found a previously undiscovered cave and something has gone wrong. The girl has been found, battered and bloodied and seemingly mad, but her boyfriend is still missing. Carise Culey is a volunteer mountain rescuer and very familiar with the mountains. When she gets the call, she forces herself to emerge from the self-imposed agony of her personal life to help out.
In order to attempt to save the boyfriend’s life, Carise must enlist the help of her ex-boyfriend, Marcel, to travel into the mountains. Not only is this sure to be a dangerous rescue physically, it will also be emotionally difficult for Carise as Marcel is her ex-boyfriend who she still loves. Once she learns the secret of the cave, however, Carise is sure to forget about all of that. This is not a case of rescuing a lost man from the mountain but a battle with an ancient evil. Even worse, surviving the cave and the monster within may only be he beginning.
“Dead Five’s Pass” is a strong novella set in Lovecraftian mythos and written in a style that is reminiscent of Lovecraft himself. Barnes slowly builds the tension of the story a little at a time and leaves the reader feeling as if something is always being held back and is waiting just around the corner to pounce. The monster of the story is something pulled straight from Lovecraft as is the origin of the monster and the evil that it represents. This novella literally has everything in it that one would expect to find in a mythos story and read more like a classic mythos story rather than a more modern take on the subject.
“Dead Five’s Pass” is effective through the amount of detail that Barnes manages to fit into the story even though it only runs around 100 pages. The people and setting of the story are vividly real in a way that immerses the reader in the story. Similarly, and much like Lovecraft’s works, the events of the story unfold in a way which makes the reader feel as if they are being experienced rather than read about. There is a strong tension in the story that makes the reader not only read the story but reflect on it as well as project future events as if the reader is an active participant. The book had me biting my nails and nervously shaking my legs as I subconsciously responded to the tension that Barnes creates.
This is not the best novella that DarkFuse has published but it is still a strong work. I do wonder a bit about the ending of the story as I thought it was a little too open-ended and maybe even “Hollywood” for my tastes. It seemed to be almost begging for a sequel that I do not know would be able to capture the atmosphere of this novella. I do not mind an ambiguous ending but I just felt that the story kind of ended rather than wrapped up which did not appeal to me. Still, “Dead Five’s Pass” proves that Colin F. Barnes is another author that I had never read before but that I have discovered through DarkFuse and hope to read more of in the future. As with any DarkFuse book, “Dead Five’s Pass” is a novella that I would definitely recommend to friends and family.
I would like to give a special thank you to DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advanced reading copy. “Dead Five’s Pass” is scheduled to be released by DarkFuse in February.