First and foremost, The Absence of Light is not intended for younger audiences. This is an adult book filled with alcohol, drugs, sex, gore, and a lot of foul language. It simply doesn't hold back at showing the seedier parts of life, but I can't imagine it having the same impact if it were censored. J. Daniel Stone's writing is thick, filled with poetry and complex sentences that are designed to be savored, not blitzed through in order to get to the next chapter. As a consequence, the book feels slow moving at times, further enhanced by the repetition in the characters' actions, which include circular arguments and a lot of drinking and taking drugs. The first half of the book drags as it takes a while to bring all the major characters together, but once the cast is assembled, the real story gets underway and doesn't stop moving until its thrilling conclusion.
At the heart of The Absence of Light is a ghost story and a set of mysteries. What were the circumstances behind Rez and Delilah's parents' deaths? Are the orbs Clive is able to capture on film really the mark of spirits or just an oddity? And, if they are ghosts, why do the orbs gather around Rez? The book toys with the questions and some of the answers aren't so straight forward; I found my mind raced to fill in gaps and come to my own conclusions as readily as any of the characters.
As fun as the mysteries are, what makes the repetition bearable and makes the book truly enjoyable are the characters: Rez, Delilah, Alex, Clive, Lynk, Hans—while each of them lives the same Goth, cutting, and substance-abusing lifestyle, they each have dramatically different identities and points of view. Hell, the differences established in their art alone, from Rez's writing, Clive and Lynk's photography, Delilah and Alex's music, it speaks volumes to the differences of the human psyche, the importance of self-expression, and all the different venues that can take. While these characters have glaring flaws and can be on the immature side at times, they grow on you a lot as the book progresses. Their alternate lifestyle, while not for me, doesn't seem so bad either by the end, simply a different way of playing the game of life than the rules I'm accustomed to. Stone has a gift for writing relationships between characters. Whether Rez and Delilah's familial connection, the close friendship between Alex and Delilah, or Rez and Alex's new relationship, I felt the love and trust between the characters, which more than anything is what keeps them from giving up on life and instead moving forward towards their dreams.
Four Bottle Cap Covered Jackets out of Five