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WesternSFA
The Infernal Game: Ghost Dance
by Rebecca Levene
Abaddon Books, 2010, $9.99, 277pp
Release Date: July 13, 2010

Two story lines converge in this supernatural thriller about Alex, an unwilling agent for the CIA, and Morgan, a street operative on the other side of the pond who works for an organization called the Hermetic Division. He gets called up to deal with things almost as nasty as himself. The Alex storyline is supernatural with horrific components, the Morgan parts are the inverse ratio. Very yin-yang.

Sixteen-year-old Alex gets conscripted after she calls a California TV station to complain about their coverage of a high school massacre – before it happens. Her call had been dismissed as mere drug-induced looniness by Patriot-Act funded listeners, but then reality catches up with her foresight. Alex does not want to become a spirit world snoop, but her passive-aggressive maneuvers prove futile. Her controller is determined to use her talents, first to verify torture-induced confessions, then to infiltrate a cult that is sending shockwaves through the supernatural ether. Alex’s partner, PD, wishes he had the talent she loathes, so tensions, resentments, and misunderstandings are inevitable.

Morgan is an all-purpose Shiva, impossible to destroy, but dangerous as hell to be around – the splash zone can be a problem. Morgan is on the trail of a murderer who seems to be after immortality – why else the obsession with 15th century alchemist John Dee and his works?

Levene brings startling elements together: alchemy, Old Testament conflicts, angels, demons, shape-changers and tricksters. She is good with details, from the high-school assassin wearing a George W. Bush mask, to Alex’s forays into a realm where truths are ugly and lies hurt the speaker like knives, to the emotional undertows that drag characters into dark waters. The climax takes place in a very … surprising place, and what happens there is all kinds of problematic. Honestly, you will want to see where she takes this in the sequel.

Of all the speculative genres, horror, because it deals with inner scapes and strong passions, tends to be the most gripping. Horror tends to ask, indirectly, the tough questions, questions like What do you want? What will you pay to get it? and Are you the sort of person who tries to cheat on the Deal? Every now and then, it can be cathartic to take a long look in that dark mirror. ~~ Chris Paige

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