Midnight Sun | Ramsey Campbell | Rougeski Book Review

Midnight Sun, by Ramsey Campbell, is an epic tale that follows the life of the only living heir to the malevolent Sterling family’s notorious reputation.  Will he find a way to turn away from the call of cosmic evil, or will he capitulate and shadow his family in a quest for supernatural secrets and power?

The saga opens with young Ben Sterling traveling alone on a train.  He is a runaway determined to visit the cemetery where his mysterious family is buried.  Due to his family’s tainted past, he tries to become unnoticed, but is soon recognized as the boy whose “mam and dad and everyone got killed on the moors.”  Ben is so mortified that he considers throwing himself off the train so he might join his family in the Stargrave cemetery.  Once he arrives in Stargrave, he immediately heads to the cemetery where all his family is buried, except for his mother, who upon the orders of her sister, Beryl, was buried in her family grave in Norwich.  This foreshadows the fact that Beryl does not approve of the Sterling family.  While visiting the graves, a hypnotic, supernatural horde of frozen, sparkling flakes approaches Ben.  Just as he is about to be carried off by the frigid storm, a policeman saves Ben from going over the edge.  Soon, he finds himself back at home with his Auntie Beryl, who loves him but is aware of the evils of his father’s family and is determined to save him from the mistakes his mother made.

Campbell creates a multifaceted and masterfully organized plot with consequential foreshadowing and flashback episodes that guarantee readers will never get lost in its complexity and will ensure that they will remember Ben’s dark past and the evils that stalk him.  The constant invasions of evil elements and temptations ensure that no one will lose interest.  The early years of Ben’s life take place in Norwich, where he lives with Auntie Byrl.  There, his childhood is complicated by repeated calls from the dark side.  He is fascinated by a magical book written by his grandfather and augmented by the motif of freezing and star like flakes will chill readers.

The second part places Ben and his wife and two children, in London.  Ben is a successful writer, and his wife is an artist who illuminates Ben’s works with visuals.  They live a charmed life until Auntie Byrl passes away and Ben inherits her home and the home of his father’s family.  Ben and his wife decide to leave the city to create a better home for their family in the country.  There, the plot turns.  They intentionally move back to the source of the evil that stalked Ben throughout his youth.

The plot soars above the average because Campbell weaves together varying themes such as temptation, loyalty, family, and love.  Perhaps the most touching and important theme is that of redemption.  Can love defeat inherited evil?  Can a shattered character achieve redemption?  The obscure, dark power of Ben’s family lurks, waiting, determined to envelop Ben and his family.

Campbell’s writing style is clear, smooth, and evocative.  Readers will never get lost or confused by the mysteries or strain to realize the foreshadowing, motifs, and other breadcrumbs buried in the subtext.

The characters are all relatable and well-drawn.  Both Ben and his wife go through major character changes due to the stresses they encounter when they move to the country.  Ben is a haunted character who loves his family, however he bears a genetic weakness when it comes to the lure of unknowable, cosmic malevolence.  Ben’s wife is at first a bit innocent, but when the safety of her family becomes an issue, she takes up the challenge of protecting them as Ben’s mother and Aunt had done before.

Midnight Sun comes highly recommended for readers who appreciate fine writing that includes spectacular motifs that tie all together.  The motifs of frozen flakes, unknowable evil that might come from the stars, and the influence of the secrets lurking in a forest harkens back to gut wrenching dominance of the woodlands in The Darkest Part of the Woods, arguably Campbell’s most hypnotic and frightening tale.  Will Ben survive, or will he and his new family end up frozen in the grave of stars?

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Book Author: Ramsey Campbell

Book Format: EBook


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