Publish Date: December 1, 2013
Pages: 495 pages
Summary: Obsession, Betrayal, Murder
Anything you can imagine is real . . .
Francis Trecy refutes paranormal claims of other researchers on a popular reality television show. He’s called The Dark Lord and The Unbeliever. Only a few people closest to him know his secret. Francis sees a lot more than he’s telling.
Before he becomes the accidental star of the program, he falls in love with a beautiful, enigmatic woman who disappears without explanation. In her wake, she leaves behind a procession of ex-lovers, along with suggestions of deceit and betrayal. Finding her becomes Francis’s obsession.
In the horror of battle, uncomfortable truths are revealed.
His team of mismatched investigators journeys to the most famous battlefield in American history. There he discovers that reality is not at all what it seems. In coming to terms with his complicated past, he battles against physical danger and emotional pain. He discovers that longings of thousands of wayward spirits mirror his own. And he learns that in a world stranger than we can imagine, the human heart remains the strangest thing of all. (Source: Amazon product description)
Short Version: With immaculate attention to detail and interweaving plots galore, this is a complex, clever book.
I’ll say this upfront: this is not a casual read.
No, it’s something better than a casual read. This is an incredibly complex and sophisticated novel, incorporating everything from American history to parapsychology, from psychology to Native American spirituality, from wood-carving to the mechanics of film. Learning through entertainment! What could be better than that? Bliss.
Author Dennis Anthony relates all of the nitty-gritty details with the confidence of an expert. That’s what makes it work – I believe everything he writes, the whole way. I came to the book with existing knowledge of parapsychology (or as I’d express it: I love me some ghosty shit) and the American Civil War, and it treated me on both topics. I can’t vouch for how it would strike a reader with no interest in either topics, but I’d think they would read the summary and know to give it a miss, anyway.
And if you’re wondering what the “Independence Day” of the title refers to, when the focus is around the American Civil War – that gets addressed, too.
While it does possess a strong plot (which slowly and steadily climbs toward a terrific climax at a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg), the drawcard for this book is definitely its characters. They are all sketched in loving detail, even those with random walk-on parts. The main characters: Francis, Marion, Phal, John, Parker, Les, Kandy, etc. are all distinct and unique, possessing their own voices, backgrounds, tics, habits and motivations. Admittedly, I largely dismissed the “Debunker” himself, Francis Trecy, as a bit of a “Marius Pontmercy” – a main character everyone else seems to adore, but toward whom I have no strong feelings either way.
But I would read an entire book – nay, an entire series – about Parker French. This bit completely sold it to me:
In the distance, he [Parker, as a child] could see the slumped peaks of the Appalachian range, tilting into Chattanooga. He felt quiet and peaceful, but not the least bit tired. That’s when Parker saw God looking in his window.
At first he thought it was a shadow or even a storm cloud brushing past the old mountains, but no, it was God. When he saw Him, Parker did the only logical thing. He got out of bed, padded into the living room where Momma sat watching a rerun of M*A*S*H, and sat on the couch next to her…
If anything, I felt as if the book was too expansive, trying to encompass too much. Intricate threads of plot and character are picked up and often dropped just as quickly. Some of them are returned to, though sometimes there’s a lengthy wait. The book opens with a Civil War battle sequence that serves as some great foreshadowing, but the Gettysburg development in the plot isn’t reintroduced until halfway through the lengthy novel. Other threads, such as Parker’s reunion with an old school friend, are solidly written in themselves, but felt to me a little extraneous to the plot.
Also extraneous to the plot (or so it felt to me as a reader) were some scenes depicting the sexual adventures of the television crew, Trecy and his colleagues. Parker French’s reunion with an old female school friend contains some very sexually-charged observations of her from Parker’s point of view, even though he’s established early on as being gay. In a couple of later chapters, it seems pretty much everyone in the TV crew is in each other’s pants, or wanting to be. It’s dealt with deftly (though there is one uncomfortable instance of what is arguably a female raping a male, not told in real-time) but it left me wondering when these people were going to get out of bed and get back to work on the ghosty stuff.
I’m that kind of reader, folks. I doubt any reader who is not me will have that kind of impatience. And I’m sure every erotica reader who’s ever heard of me is grateful that I can’t and won’t fairly read their stuff.
As mentioned before, the ending is beautifully executed, wrapping up both (most of) the storylines introduced in the previous chapters, as well as leaving breathing room for future instalments. It’s a balancing act of satisfying the reader and leaving them wanting more, but Anthony most definitely succeeds. I wish I could elaborate more on it without spoiling, but there was one triumphant moment of this book I’ll probably remember even if I don’t read it again for fifty years: Parker French running along the battlefield with his arms flung wide, like a child “playing aeroplanes.”
It’ll all make sense when you read it.