"Celestial Seepage" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Alien Agenda Publishing
Written by Brian Fatah Steele
2019, 145 pages, Fiction
Released on 15 October 2019
When I noticed the main character of Brian Fatah Steele’s latest novella Celestial Seepage is a librarian and archivist, my ears pricked up, as I work in the same profession. I am sure you can appreciate we can’t all be as cool as the legendary Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Harper makes a pretty good job of it in this story, which has two seriously contrasting halves. The first is well-plotted, with an urban-fantasy vibe which sets the scene nicely, but what follows is a crazy romp with ageless monstrous entities from a different dimension duking it out in a small American city. I was not certain the two halves would gel together perfectly, but I was happy to hop on the rollercoaster and had fun with the book.
Before we meet our strong willed and kick-ass librarian, the story is carefully laid out through a series of isolated incidents which show something is amiss in the struggling Ohio city of Ellesmere. In the first of these, an ex-con with a drug habit, Travis Lowell, is trying to score gear, which he eventually does close to the building of the Historical Society, an ancient institution which is to play a key role in the story. He meets up with William, his usual dealer, who pulls a knife and stabs Travis repeatedly, killing him, and is obviously not himself whilst wielding the knife. Considering what was just around the corner, this was a normal day at the office, but at the time the city residents were stunned by the brutal slaying.
The story then jumps to librarian Harper Llewellyn, who has just found out she has been temporarily transferred from Andrews Public Library to the Historical Society to work on an obscure archive cataloguing project digitising material dating back to 1887. Upon arrival she is hostilely treated by her new boss Elizabeth Vickers, who does not seem to think Harper is the right person for the job, and in a clash of personalities, the two women fail to hit it off. Also adding to the negative vibe, Harper is unsure why she has been transferred and begins to investigate.
Eventually Harper’s story meets that of Riley Owens, an independently wealthy university student who clearly has a few secrets up her sleeve. Riley is dating Lana Vargas, who works at a local bar, The Long Krall, and the pair have a strong relationship. Riley is an engaging character and the plot takes its time revealing where it is taking this sassy young woman, who also has long-standing connections to the Historical Society.
Everybody who has seen Ghostbusters will remember how all the paranormal occurrences gravitated towards the Plaza Building; things are similar in Celestial Seepage except in this story we have the Historical Society. Harper soon realises something is up and the job she never wanted in the first place soon becomes a trickier than scanning a few old documents! The plot is told through multiple third-person perspectives, but most of the pivotal stories are played out through Riley and Harper.
Your overall opinion of Celestial Seepage may well be judged by how much you take to the over-the-top second half. It’s all action stuff, but some readers may find it stretches the realms of possibility too far. But hey, it is billed a supernatural thriller and genuinely lets everything hang out in a mashup of urban-fantasy and horror. I enjoyed it but felt some of the tension developed in the first half is lost in the wave of apocalyptic mass destruction.
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