The Dark Net

Benjamin Percy's distinctive brand of horror fiction, honed in novels such as The Dead Lands and Red Moon, is on full display in The Dark Net. It moves at a ruthless pace, introducing seemingly major characters only to have them maimed or killed within a few chapters. The novel begins with 12-year-old Hannah--near blind and rapidly losing her remaining eyesight--being outfitted with the Mirage, "not glasses so much as a silver shield that wrapped your eyes." The miraculous invention allows her to see, but it comes with an unsettling side effect: some people appear "enveloped in shadow, surrounded by a black shawl."

Hannah's aunt Lela is a hard-charging reporter for the Oregonian. She made her name breaking a story about a famous serial killer with occult ties, and she is now investigating a strange new excavation underneath the killer's former building. Her path eventually intersects with that of Mike Juniper, a bear of a man with a complicated past. Mike runs a local homeless shelter that doubles as a base of operations for anti-demonic pursuits.

The Dark Net includes hallmarks of supernatural horror such as demonic possession, hellhounds and something comparable to magic. The ancient forces of evil have embraced hacking and bleeding-edge tech. Their master plan remains a mystery until well into the story, but it involves hijacking human beings as well as computers, security systems, cell phones--the digital infrastructure we've become so reliant on. Insofar as horror is a vehicle for metaphor, The Dark Net warns against our often lackadaisical approach to cybersecurity. More importantly, it's good fun. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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