Christopher Rice’s new book “The Heavens Rise” is creepy from the get-go.
The author has created a monster and—unlike Mary Shelley’s golem, pieced together from cast-off body parts—Rice’s creature is all too human, which makes him all the more terrifying.
The book begins with an excerpt from a Niquette Delongpre’s journal, a passage that ends ominously, setting the tone for what’s to come after she and her parents disappear from the face of the Earth the night before a housewarming at their Arcadian home deep in the bayous of Louisiana on the fringe of New Orleans.
The young Niquette had brought a male classmate to the place called Elysium recently to show him the home and its swimming pool filled from a tainted artesian well beneath the muddy expanse that surrounds the house. But what she might have thought would be an innocent romp with Marshall Ferriot turns into a nightmare that will haunt her and everyone she loves for years to come. By then, readers know Marshall is a monster, but continue to discover how unimaginably sadistic he can be as the pages turn.
This is Rice’s best book to date, with evocative language, recurring themes and rich storytelling that will raise the hairs on the back of the neck. It rivals the best of Stephen King at times and sets a standard for psychological horror as Marshall emerges from a vegetative state, using paranormal powers to savagely exact revenge on the girl who rejected him and everyone around her.
The novel takes a sci-fi turn in the second half and monsters become more
hallucinatory and Frankensteinian as Niquette—afflicted with the same “gift” of mind control as Marshall due to an unexpected plunge into her pool—experiments with her power with different results; the novel then trespasses into H.G. Wells and Dr. Moreau territory.
With one or two implausible plot elements, Rice has created an original novel with characters that are smart, diverse, authentic and sympathetic—with the exception of the vindictive villain, who practices his own brand of voodoo.
The author uses the New Orleans setting to full effect, resurrecting the horror of Hurricane Katrina; commenting on a racial divide within the Crescent City; indicting oil companies for imperiling the environment; and creating a sense of foreboding and terror from the moss-draped morass that surrounds the murky waters of Lake Pontchartrain and the Great Mississippi delta.
Within the pages of “The Heavens Rise,” readers will find that pure evil lurks, and they can only hope that goodness will triumph over it.
First published by the Louisville Courier-Journal