The Heavens Rise

By Christopher Rice
Published on October 15th 2013
Published by Gallery Books

Source: Netgalley
New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice brilliantly conjures the shadowed terrors of the Louisiana bayou—where three friends confront a deadly, ancient evil rising to the surface—in this intense and atmospheric new supernatural thriller.

It’s been a decade since the Delongpre family vanished near Bayou Rabineaux, and still no one can explain the events of that dark and sweltering night. No one except Niquette Delongpre, the survivor who ran away from the mangled stretch of guardrail on Highway 22 where the impossible occurred…and kept on running. Who left behind her best friends, Ben and Anthem, to save them from her newfound capacity for destruction…and who alone knows the source of her very bizarre—and very deadly—abilities: an isolated strip of swampland called Elysium.

An accomplished surgeon, Niquette’s father dreamed of transforming the dense acreage surrounded by murky waters into a palatial compound befitting the name his beloved wife gave to it, Elysium: “the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous.” Then, ten years ago, construction workers dug into a long-hidden well, one that snaked down into the deep, black waters of the Louisiana swamp and stirred something that had been there for centuries—a microscopic parasite that perverts the mind and corrupts the body.

Niquette is living proof that things done can’t be undone. Nothing will put her family back together again. And nothing can save her. But as Niquette, Ben, and Anthem uncover the truth of a devastating parasite that has the potential to alter the future of humankind, Niquette grasps the most chilling truths of all: someone else has been infected too. And unlike her, this man is not content to live in the shadows. He is intent to use his newfound powers for one reason only: revenge.
It took me a little while to get into this book, and I very nearly set it down after the first few chapters didn't really resonate with me.  The book opens with a journal entry from Niquette (Nikki), and I didn't particularly like the style in which her journal entries were written.  And we go from that straight into a chapter from the perspective of one Marshall Ferriot, who is an unpleasant person to say the very least.  And I thought, if the whole book was going to be like this -- overly flowery prose countered by a vile villain with some pretty depraved fantasies -- well, I didn't know if I wanted to continue.

But it was really only a handful of pages and I usually don't decide to give up on something until I'm about a quarter of the way through, so I pushed on, and was glad that I did, for several reasons.  First, Rice does great justice to New Orleans and its spooky, haunted feel, but he also does justice to the city and its people by not whitewashing it.  He's doesn't hide from the issues of race and poverty in the city, both pre- and post-Katrina; Rice is honest and doesn't pull any punches or try to sanitize the city's dismal record on these things in any way.  Second, he creates a mystery that takes a long time to unfold, and which keeps you hanging on wanting to know how it's going to end.  Third, the blend of supernatural elements and straight-up horror is very well done, and there were some incredibly, profoundly creepy scenes and characters in this book.

In reality, this is Ben and Marshall's story, since they're the ones we spend the most time with.  I feel like the summary of the book is slightly misleading, as Nikki is really just a background character for much of the book, particularly after her family's disappearance in the swamp.  For much of the book we follow Ben, a budding journalist, and Anthem, Nikki's heartbroken boyfriend, as well as Marshall, still bitter over being spurned by Nikki in high school.  It's a shame as I think it would have been great to read more from Nikki's perspective, but for the sake of the mystery, it would have been impossible to have her be present more.

I don't know how sold I am on the ending -- it left me wanting more, but I also did a lot of squinting at it to try to figure out my feelings on it -- but the lead up to it, with the characters discovering many long-buried truths, is very well done and suspenseful.   The Heavens Rise bounces back and forth in time between Nikki's disappearance and the present day, and sometimes those time shifts were hard to keep track of.  Perhaps it's better in a finished e-book or print version, but in the e-galley, I frequently found myself having to play catch-up or going back to re-read sections once it became clear what time period it was set in.

Despite the rocky start, I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a book that straddles the line between horror and paranormal/sci-fi.  This book does contain scenes of violence towards both animals and humans, an attempted sexual assault, a suicide attempt, and lots of snakes.

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