Fiction Reviews

Born to the Dark

(2017 / 2021) Ramsey Campbell, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$32.95 / US$24.95, hrdbk, 277pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58748-9


Liverpool, 1985. Dominic's son, Toby, is getting nocturnal seizures that no doctor seems able to treat. At the same time, a threatening figure from Dominic's past returns. Is his son at threat from a cult?

Be afraid, be very afraid. The unleashing of the Three Births of Daoloth continues! Having re-released The Searching Dead, Flame Tree Press continue with publication of book two of the trilogy, 'Born to the Dark', with the final part – The Way of the Worm – to follow in 2022.

Here, it is 1985 and thirty years have passed since the events of the first book and The Tremendous Three have gone their separate ways with Dominic not fulfilling his potential as a writer, but becoming a lecturer in cinema instead. While Roberta, or Bobby, is a crusading journalist, picking up the baton from her father who seemed to challenge all aspects of British life in the first book, from royalty to religion. Jim, the last of the three is now in the police force and for him and Bobby, the events surrounding former teacher Christian Noble and his experiments into the afterlife are fading memories, but for Dom who went into the depths of the church that Noble established, these events can never be forgotten, although he had other things on his mind as he is now married, and his young son Toby is suffering from strange night seizures which cannot be treated, until his wife happens to come across an organisation known as “Safe to Sleep” offering an alternative therapy to parents of children suffering the same condition that are labelled “nocturnal absences”. Part of the treatment involves the children all sleeping together and leaning to embrace their strange paralysis, but to what end?

Dom has his troubles, and they certainly make him a dour character. Christian Noble is always on his mind, and because of his son’s condition it isn’t a happy home, and work isn’t much better either as he ends up being reported for some of the films he is showing as part of a theme on Christ-like figures in film as the films he screens, and his comments are misinterpreted. What can’t be misinterpreted by the reader are the comments that young Toby makes about his dream visions. Even the things that he does like making a snowman with an eerie, worm-like disfigured face set the alarm bells ringing in the minds of the reader. Something bad is coming, and Campbell builds the dread, and the quite horror until the end when he really ramps it up.

Unlike the trilogy's first part, we don’t have the wide-eyed innocence of the Tremendous Three, and all the possibilities of a post-war Liverpool, but Campbell is on familiar ground with the use of dreams, children in jeopardy and a misunderstood protagonist at odds with almost all the familiar anchors in his life – his family, his friends, his workplace – while in the background there is the looming and strengthening threat of horror from beyond. Is there any hope for mankind? There is only one way to find out, if you dare – in the pages of book three, The Way of the Worm, see you on the dark side.

Recommended, and a must for readers of the first part of the trilogy, which is where new readers should start.

Ian Hunter


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