Premee Mohamed’s 2021 A Broken Darkness is a sequel to Beneath the Rising.
A year and a half ago, wunderkind Johnny Chambers and her bestest friend Nick Prasad saved the world from the Dimensional Anomaly. True, they were a bit late and hundreds of millions of people died. The important thing is that seven billion people didn’t die.
Nick hasn’t spoken to Johnny in the last year and a half. It’s not just because Johnny was responsible for providing other-dimensional beings with the chance to invade our world. Although that is a large part of it.
As a girl, Johnny made a deal with extra-dimensional horrors: episodes of super-genius in exchange for a shortened lifespan (and as it turned out, a chance to reclaim Earth for Their own). In addition, she got Nick as her designated best friend. To ensure his devotion to her, almost everyone — save for Nick’s closest relatives — who could have been a rival for her attention was carefully removed from his life. When Nick discovered how his life had been sculpted for Johnny’s convenience, he did not take it well.
In the year and a half since the Dimensional Anomaly, Nick has rebuilt his life without Johnny. Now on the very lowest rung of the Ssarati Society, with unreliable command of beginner’s magic, Nick is part of Earth’s defense against the horrors and those who would give them a path into our dimension. People like Johnny, in other words.
Not that the world should need defending; Johnny closed the gates between the worlds. No matter how the horrors rage in their realm, there is no way for them back into our world.
Which makes the outbreak of horrors at a Chambers gala hard to account for. On the one hand, there is no way for Johnny’s former patrons to reach into our world. On the other, people are very definitely being painfully warped into That Which Should Not Exist. This is immediately fatal for those transformed and almost as immediately fatal for those near them who fail to run away fast enough.
How are Earth’s enemies infecting a world they cannot reach? It’s a mystery Johnny is determined to solve. Teaming up with Johnny is the last thing Nick wants to do. Shame that, as with so many things in his life, Nick doesn’t really have a choice.
As it happens, Halloween 2021 is the 40th anniversary of this venerable roleplaying game
The 7th edition being something of a tome — two tomes, in fact — it’s going to be a while before I get around to reviewing the latest incarnation of Call of Cthulhu.
Until then, Cosmic-Horror-themed books may show up with increasing frequency. Kind of like how Cosmic Horrors are showing up with increasing frequency in Nick’s world! Ha ha!
One of the questions CoC wrestles with is what exactly the cultists get out of making deals with vast entities who generally don’t and in some cases may not be able to care a tiddle for the well-being of puny humans. A popular answer is “because having glimpsed That Which Should Not Be Seen,” cultists have abdicated on the rational decision front. Plausible but a bit of disappointment when it comes to character building. Not so much building as breaking.
A Broken Darknessoffers two plausible alternatives!
A: Some people convince themselves that Team Cosmic Horror’s eventually victory is assured. Since the horrors are vindictive, while the benefits of siding with the malevolent forces of darkness are probably not great, they are still better than the consequences of trying to oppose them .
B: If one is convinced that one is a genius of exceptional caliber, one may expect to find an escape clause before the consequences arrive (this is Johnny’s excuse). Well, there are a great many folktales re deals with the devil in which the devil is thwarted.
This wasn’t really the feel-good book I wanted this week, but it was certainly effectively written. If you like this sort of thing, you may like this.
1: Arguably, this is why Nick doesn’t simply bash Johnny over the head with a rock. Johnny has a talent for surviving and Nick sure wouldn’t want her for an enemy.