Kenneth Calhoun's Black Moon is a thoughtfully introspective meditation on human relationships and contemporary Western society set to the beat of a zombie apocalypse thriller, within which the sudden absence of sleep transforms people into a slow moving incoherent mass also capable of rabid bouts of focused and fatal destruction. This bizarre formula gives the work a surrealistic quality somewhat reminiscent of the work of celebrated Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. However, Murakami's surrealism seems to be a natural element of his writing style, fitting for characters who live mostly within their own minds and find their way into mysterious underground societies. Meanwhile, Calhoun's surrealism is instead endemic to the landscape he creates, a largely sleepless world in which a dream state infuses waking reality for both the sleepless and sleepers alike.
I enjoy surreal novels, and it was the promise of this quality which initially excited me about reading Dark Moon. However, I did not continue to read each chapter because I enjoyed the writing style so much as because I became intrigued by the plot. The desire to discover what would happen next drew me through to the book's conclusion, and the ultimate lack of answers struck me as simultaneously disappointing and beautiful. It shifted my focus once again, this time from the plot to the intricacies of the characters themselves. Ultimately, Black Moon is a character study. It presents interlocking portraits of different people coping in very different ways with the timeless human themes of love and loss.
Viewed as such, Black Moon is a worthwhile read with room to grow. I recommend it to readers seeking promising new authors. Pay close attention to the chapter within which Lila chases wind chimes. Of all the character arcs examined within Black Moon, Calhoun's portrait of Lila strikes me as one of the most dynamic and resonant, despite its seeming simplicity. Likewise, the chapter dedicated to Biggs' brother's search for the missing baby functions almost as a stand alone story, a rewarding read in and of itself. As a social commentary, one of the most poignant points implied by Black Moon is the role of art in our society. Although done subtly, Calhoun's mention of film, music and books suggests their importance as healthy repositories for, and sometimes antidotes to, our most powerful dreams.
Please note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.