Walking the Dusk
JournalStone Publishing (May 12, 2023)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers
I thought Walking the Dusk was going to be a simple ghost story, or maybe a tale of a young boy tormented by a demonic entity in childhood, and the implications of that childhood experience into adulthood. Not so. Or at least, those aren’t the main things that are going on in Walking the Dusk. This is a cosmic horror novel with multiple gears that begins on very familiar ground then rapidly takes the reader into deeply unfamiliar territory.
Walking the Dusk has one of the creepiest openings I’ve ever read: it’s an ordinary night for an ordinary little suburban boy named Charlie, who awakens to find a boy at his window asking to be let into the house. Charlie lets him in—I’m not sure he has much of a choice, but needless to say, this was an error on Charlie’s part—and then the boy goes into the bedrooms of Charlie’s sleeping parents and sister Megan. What follows is deeply creepy and unsettling. Nothing in the family’s lives is ever the same again after that night. While I don’t know very much at all about the Shadow People (urban legends?), but what little I have seen about them, I can see some parallels, so those may have been at least a partial inspiration here.
In adulthood, Charlie has become Charles Barry, a renowned physicist, and his sister Megan has become a drifter, a dropout, a bohemian who has never found happiness in life. They haven’t seen each other for years but are reunited at their father’s funeral. The memories of their childhood, and that fateful night, come flooding back. Ultimately, Charles must venture into other realms of existence, a kind of mind-blowing plane of existence that underlies our perceptions of reality in order to retrieve his sister’s memories and fragments of her very being in order to restore the person she was meant to be before that fateful night.
Walking the Dusk is a really nice blending of more or less conventional horror with a genuinely cosmic voyage that suggests the nature of reality is far different from what we suppose it to be. Robinson is a skilled wordsmith adept at balancing solid characterization, absolutely chilling horror, and cosmic flights of fancy that challenge the reader to question the nature of reality. Recommended.