Book one of the Dark Passages
By Ilsa J. Bick
Available now from EgmontUSA
WHITE SPACE does not have a quick beginning. It opens with Lizzie, a precocious child, observing a conflict between her parents play out. This bit is filled with odd vocabulary and a strange magic, and just as soon as you think you've figured out the rules, a girl named Emma wakes up from her reverie about being Lizzie to recall how she came to be driving through the mountains. And so on, flashing though narrators and their stories and the way they come together.
WHITE SPACE is a disorienting experience. It keeps almost coming together into something nice and neat when Ilsa J. Bick throws another curveball in the story's rules. This wouldn't work for most books, but WHITE SPACE is a horror novel. The shifts in the text keep the readers as off balance as the characters. Plus, it is metafictional horror. The characters are, in many ways, threatened by potential monsters fueled by their own fears. The deceptive looseness of the structure makes the amorphous more frightening.
I was thrilled by WHITE SPACE. This is a disturbing book, full of imagery that gets beneath your skin, like a shirt wearing a person or crawling through tunnels (filled with things I'll leave to you to discover). It's a book that trusts the reader's intelligence, to remember the details and fit them together, to be able to readjust whenever there is a paradigm shift. It's also populated with strangely likeable characters for a horror novel.
I will say that WHITE SPACE goes on a touch too long. It's the beginning of a series, and stands fairly well on its own, although the ending chapters clearly lead-in to the next book. But there is a bit of fatigue before then, because this is one fat novel. I loved the rising tension of the opening, things ever so slightly not right. But once things go crazy, a few incidents could've been cut. At the same time, that's really my only complaint. This is a genuinely scary horror novel, which is something I appreciate.