Monday, July 6, 2009

The Dark Man (Review)

The Dark Man by Marc Schooley is an interesting book to be reviewing over Fourth of July weekend, because it paints a chilling picture of an America that has lost freedom of religion.

Sometime in the unspecified future, following Christianity will land you in a reclamation center, where the powers that be will use some pretty scary forms of "therapy" on you to attempt to bring you back to your senses. If that doesn't work, you will probably end up dead. Christians sneak into utility rooms in malls and back rooms of businesses to meet with one another and worship. The Christians' greatest fear is that one of them may not be who he seems, but might instead be the infamous master of disguises, Charles Graves.

Charles is sort of a modern-day Paul--or more appropriately, Saul. He pursues the Church stragglers with a frightening zeal, and the reclamation centers are full to bursting because of his undercover work. Since the book begins with a terrifying scene from Charles's childhood when he sees his Christian mother dragged away by the agents, this is a little hard to understand at first.

But it's soon obvious that Charles is a very traumatized young man, and he perhaps blames Christianity for taking his mother away from him. There's also the mysterious "Dark Man" who haunts Charles, but also talks Charles through his missions and helps him achieve his brutal goals. Charles has a complex relationship with the Dark Man, who taunts him and makes life miserable but also helps him survive. Charles at times wants to be rid of him, and at times panics at the idea of life without the Dark Man.

Following in Saul's footsteps, Charles has a sort of Damascus Road experience--only his occurs during a meeting of the underground church he's infiltrating. Charles is astounded to find himself suddenly a Christian, fleeing from the agents he used to work with. He's not nearly as surprised as his girlfriend, Julia, however. Because of Charles, she also ends up working with "the other side" and fleeing for her life, but without the advantage of his new belief.

Charles and Julia both join forces with the Reverend James Cleveland, the leader of the underground church in Houston and the city's most-wanted Christian. They go on the offensive, attacking a reclamation center, attempting to free a well-known prisoner, and making some surprising discoveries about Charles's family and past.

Rev. Cleveland helps Charles discover who the Dark Man is and how he can be rid of him. Of course, Charles first has to decide he wants to be rid of him--a struggle that tests the limits of his new faith.

First, the positives about The Dark Man. It's fast-paced and exciting, with hair-raising capers and heart-pumping twists and turns. It paints a chilling and all-too-believable picture of an American city without freedom. Characters are well-drawn and believable. In fact, it's disturbing to see that a nice, smart girl like Julia could be using her computer skills to track down Christians. But within the context of her world, it makes sense. Charles's sudden conversion is all the more believable because it's a rare case. Other characters start to question the way the world is being run or to show some interest in the Gospel, but they don't start falling to their knees like Christian dominoes. It's a real struggle for all.

The things I didn't like were mostly stylistic and had to do more with my own tastes. I've never enjoyed dream sequences or bizarre visions, and Charles is prone to them. Even worse, he sometimes lapses into cartoon-like visions in the middle of one of their missions, which made me wonder how he had survived, let alone become such a successful agent.

I also had a slight problem with the ending. There's a huge, exciting climax, so that's not the issue. But during it, I wanted to scream at the good guys that they were being stupid, and felt that the climax was partly big because they were stupid, which made the ending one of the least believable parts of the story to me.

Overall, however, I truly enjoyed The Dark Man. It's a unique story told in a unique voice--one that I think men and women readers would both enjoy. And those books don't come along often.
As part of Marcher Lord Press's spring 2009 releases, The Dark Man can be found at Marcher Lord's website or at


  1. This sounds good. I immediately thought of The Stand's Dark Man character. I imagine he's no one you'd like to meet.

  2. This sounds fascinating, Robin. I've often thought of writing a book showing what the world will probably be like some day, with Christians the minority, viewed with suspicion and contempt, having to hide their true beliefs or be faced with persecution and imprisonment.

    In China, when they caught a Christian and put him in prison, they "re-educated" him with their brainwashing techniques.
    And I know who the Dark Man is. He's real, and Christians need to realize it or they might fall prey to him as well.
    Sounds like an interesting book!

  3. Hello Robin,

    I'm sincerely grateful that you not only invested your time in reading The Dark Man, but that you took the time to put your thoughts down along with the kind words. Much appreciated...

    Good review, as well. Thanks!