Darkness on the Edge of Light, Part One
Scott Everett Bronson
ArcPoint Media, 2013
Reviewed by Michael R. Collings
Darkness on the Edge of Light is a particularly apt title for a collection of four stories that each begin in darkness—in suffering, sorrow, pain, fear, terror, and outright horror. In the first entry, “Tattoo,” a child contemplates the utter destruction of the earth and everything on it. In the next, “A Report from the Terran Project,” a father disciplines his son by breaking every bone in the boy’s hand. “Mother and Child Reunion” explores the consequences as a psychic investigator, maimed and mutated by cancer, enters the mind of a teenage boy who has raped and murdered his entire family. And the protagonist of “And the Moon Became as Blood”—betrayed, the innocent victim of a vicious hate crime, and the sole remaining inhabitant of an evacuated moon colony—must watch helplessly as the earth destroys itself in burnings and nuclear storms, knowing even as he watches the conflagrations that he is seeing his own death sentence written in fire.
It is difficult to specify precisely the genre of the remarkable stories Bronson has assembled. To some degree each is Science-fictional. There are aliens, futuristic worlds (which Bronson defines with pinpoint accuracy and consistency of both landscape and language), space travel, and other appurtenances one might anticipate. There are touches of Fantasy, most prominently in the dragon that becomes a visible invisible friend to the child in “Tattoo.” And there is Horror; each story presents raw, often harsh, always honest and realistic depictions of human depravity and cruelty, of failure of parents to understand children. Language is often necessarily rough; imagery equally difficult and discomfiting. Characters range from openly sympathetic to, well, to unsettling and perverse.
True to its promise, the book contains darkness aplenty.
And yet there is, in the title, the promise of light. Of an opposition to the horrors and terrors that might, can, and eventually must transcend the almost overwhelming darkness and move into the light—most pointedly, perhaps, the light of love. For Bronson and his characters, love is not a vague abstraction, a four-letter word bandied about with little consideration for meaning or import, but an almost tangible concretion, embodied in words that dissolve the limits of language.
Reading Darkness on the Edge of Light becomes in essence an experience of grace and restoration. But if that comment implies that there is religious content in the stories, readers need not quail before the prospect of a sermon. Bronson’s stories are stories; his characters, far more than set-pieces to be shifted back and forth to meet some ill-defined theological norm; his plots, explorations of fundamental human truths rather than of doctrinal superficialities. Where he mentions religion specifically—and that is rare—it is not to proselytize but to point attention to key themes and plot directions.
As an extra attraction, each story is accompanied by an “Afterword” describing its history and, to a degree, its importance to Bronson as an individual and as an author. Hearing him talk about each gives an added immediacy to many of the details he uses to create depth and resonance throughout the collection.