Book Review: A Life Transparent by Todd Keisling

“With a rich mythology hinted at throughout book one, and with a credible protagonist in whom we can all believe and root for, as well as a delightfully sinister antagonist, old and new Monochrome fans alike will be eagerly anticipating the completion of the trilogy.”

 

A life Transparent - cover After the success of Devil’s Creek (Silver Shamrock Publishing) last year, Todd Keisling is following it up with the release of his Monochrome Trilogy this year. While the first two books were previously released (2007 and 2012, respectively), fans of the original books have had to wait quite a while for book three, which Keisling is planning on publishing later in 2021. But, first, book one in the tale of Donovan Candle and the Monochrome has been reprinted, with added material and an updated afterword.

After a brief prologue to give us a taste of the Monochrome and the background of the book, we meet Donovan Candle, the protagonist. Once a budding author, he seems to have become stagnant in his life, working a tedious office job and just waiting for that promotion. While he is happily married, there seems to be little else in his life to be happy about, with having to cut back on spending and being frustrated by his current writing project, not to mention a strained relationship with his brother. So far, Donovan’s existence can be described as mundane, and often depressing. But this changes when he begins to experience the unusual phenomenon of disappearing from view.

While this experience reflects the way he has come to view his life, with co-workers failing to acknowledge him and even his own wife, Donna, seemingly ignoring his comments, it does present him with the opportunity to prove himself. After a week of fading out of reality, with the occurrences growing more frequent and the effects worsening (Donna becoming more and more distant, and the appearance of shadowy and frightening figures), mysterious and sinister Aleister Dullington makes his move. Through a kidnapping by Dullington’s minion, he hopes to force Donovan to find Albert Sparrow, a man who escaped Dullington’s clutches in the past, and continues to elude him. But, given Donovan’s dull and uninteresting existence up to this point, will he be able to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done?

Keisling captures the hopelessness of Donovan’s situation in the beginning of the book, so much so that the reader could be forgiven for being concerned for the author’s frame of mind at the time. With Donovan being a budding author himself, losing his self-confidence thanks to a thankless job that just about covers the bills and leaves little time for creativity, many readers with aspirations of one day penning their own bestseller may recognise themselves in the protagonist. With that said, once Donovan is forced into action by the demands of Dullington and the realisation that there is more to perceived reality than meets the eye, the excitement picks up and we feel invested in Donovan’s quest, as though we are along for the ride.

Being the first book in the trilogy, Keisling must walk a fine line between showing too much too soon and, thus, risking the narrative becoming bogged down in exposition about the Monochrome and the roles played by Dullington and Sparrow, or not showing enough to keep the reader interested. Keeping Dullington at arm’s length, maintaining an air of mystery around him, and having him rely on his henchman to coerce Donovan, not only creates tension about the antagonist and the extent of his influence, but also builds anticipation for book two. Reader’s will be excited to further witness Donovan’s transition from a dull drone to a man of action. With a rich mythology hinted at throughout book one, and with a credible protagonist in whom we can all believe and root for, as well as a delightfully sinister antagonist, old and new Monochrome fans alike will be eagerly anticipating the completion of the trilogy.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Bloodshot Books
eBook: 160 (pps)
Release Date: 2 March 2021

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