Book Review: Dark Visions
Dark Visions by L.J.Smith comprises three novels, The Strange Power, The Possessed and The Passion, all of which were originally published back in the mid 1990s. Now they have been repackaged into a single 730 page paper-back volume and released back to a public whose taste for this kind of urban fantasy has been rekindled by the ubiquitous Twilight books.
And here comes the apology. I know you’re all sick of references to La Meyer and her magnum opus but in the case of Dark Visions I really must draw the analogies. Why? Because reading these three novels you cannot help but be struck by the similarities and as this volume has only just been published (September 3rd) you may fall into the misapprehension that Smith had been influenced by Meyer. The truth, however, given the original publication dates, would seem to be the opposite.
But let me tell you a little more about the novels themselves.
The Strange Power introduces the main characters. Kaitlin is an artist, whose drawings have the uncanny habit of coming true. She is invited by the mysterious Dr Zetes to join his group of psychically talented teenagers in a purple building in California. (The significance of the building’s colour is never explained but it’s such a super detail, I thought I’d mention it!) There she meets the two other major characters in the three novels: golden boy, Rob, the healer, and brooding but gorgeous Gabriel, the telepath.
By the end of The Strange Power the three teenagers, along with the two other psychic teen residents of the purple house, Anna and Lewis, have discovered that Dr Zetes isn’t quite the philanthropist they thought, fought him off and in doing so created a psychic bond between group members that cannot be broken.
The Possessed opens with the group on the run. They have escaped Dr Zetes and are desperately working their way up the west coast of America looking for the beach that Kaitlin believes houses their salvation. As they hide out together they grow closer and Kaitlin finally discovers Gabriel’s secret: he’s not just a telepath, but a psychic vampire who has to drain others of their psychic energy to survive. Now, ordinarily you might run from this. But not Kaitlin. No, she decides that she’s strong enough to control Gabriel and offers herself up as a source. And at this point I can hear you all screaming Bella and Edward at me. So I shall say no more.
The novel ends with an apocalyptic battle between the Fellowship (the good guys) and Dr Zetes and his bunch of psychic freaks (you guessed it, the bad guys), the outcome of which proves to be not entirely satisfactory for either side. And Kaitlin is not happy either, torn as she is between good old Rob and scary but sexy Gabriel!
The third novel, The Passion, brings both the love story and the battle between good and evil to an end. This is the one where Kaitlin grabs hold of her life, takes risks and emerges triumphant. She also gets the boy, but I won’t reveal which one.
So, what did I make of the books? Well, they’re a lot shorter than the Twilight opus and the read far more quickly. The style is leaner and the pages turn rapidly. Watching the relationship between Kaitlyn and Gabriel ebb and wane is a joy and those readers who criticised Bella for being too sappy, will find for more meat on the bone in Kaitlyn.
The minor characters in the group, Anna and Lewis are less clearly defined. This is only natural given the sheer dominance of the romantic triangle, but, for my money, I could have done with a bit more colour. Still, that criticism aside, if you liked Twilight, then you will like Dark Visions and it is amazingly good value at only £7.99 for all three books.
As to me, I’m off to read Scott Westerfeld’s latest. I’ve read too many books about American teenagers recently and I really can’t face them again for a while!
Dark Visions by L.J.Smith, published by Simon and Schuster, September 2009