Epeolatry Book Review: Dark Dweller by Gareth Worthington
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Title: Dark Dweller
Authors: Gareth Worthington
Publisher: Dropship Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Release Date: 28th February, 2023
Synopsis: Captain Kara Psomas was pronounced dead when her research vessel slammed into Jupiter. More than a century later, the crew of the Paralus, a helium mining freighter, find a pristine escape pod with a healthy young girl nestled inside. A girl who claims to be Kara—and she brings a message of doom.
She says she has been waiting in the dark for that exact moment. To be found by that particular crew. Because an ancient cosmic being has tasked her with a sacred responsibility. She claims she must alter the Fulcrum, a lever in time—no matter the cost to the people aboard—or condemn the rest of civilization to a very painful and drawn-out demise.
She sounds convincing. She appears brave. She might well be insane.
Welcome to Earth’s future. As resources on our planet are exhausted, the need to travel deep into the Solar System to harvest basic elements becomes a necessity. In Gareth Worthington’s Dark Dweller, we are introduced to the crew of the Paralus, a space craft whose primary objective is to harvest helium from Jupiter. What should be a normal and straight forward mission is complicated by the discovery of an escape pod with someone still inside.
The book shifts the narrative focus between 4 characters. These characters, Dr. Sarah Dallas, the Paralus’ psychologist, Commander Feng Chau, the ships Commanding Officer, Dr. Luan Nkosi, an astrobiologist, and the girl calling herself Kara Psomas, play pivotal roles in the events that follow. Every time the perspective changes, the reader is emersed into a different mindset with shifting ideology. Dallas has strong convictions toward helping to understand what Psomas has been through. Chau is hellbent on completing the Paralus’ original mission. Nkosi, pulled from a research facility to aid the Paralus, wants to complete his task to return to his crew. Finally, the individual calling herself Psomas, struggles to impart the severity of what she must do to save the human race on the crew of the Paralus.
Along with these four main characters, the reader is introduced to a cast of supporting characters that are just as well constructed. Worthington wrote into life a diverse crew, each with their own quirks, desires, and language. A personal favorite is the Paralus’ doctor, Kilkenny. His mannerism and dialog, even in the face of danger, offers levity to every scene in which he partakes.
What I appreciate most about Worthington’s Dark Dweller is the story’s freshness. I assumed along the way that elements were going to feel similar to other classic science fiction horror. I was wrong. Each character’s perception seemed to encapsulate a different kind of horror, and if you’ve read my other reviews, you know that I love when multiple horror elements are combined.
For one character, a slow decent into madness has very strong nods to certain familiar horror tropes, while another character’s perception of unseen entities adds the supernatural element to the tale. Worthington will even leave the reader guessing if the characters are unreliable narrators, expanding on some of the best literary tropes.
If I have to critique anything about this book, it would be a small bit of crassness regarding the sexuality of one of the characters. I won’t expand on the details, but for a few short sentences throughout the book, they provide little depth to the character. Had the other three characters been expanded upon in this way, it might not have stuck out so much. Phrased differently, the reader would realize the significance of this disclosure without the off-putting descriptions.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s incredible, the sense of universal dread that the author created with the book taking place over a comparatively small space. Worthington creates a seamless transition from character to character, and scene to scene right up to the end, which, I assure, you will not see coming.
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Joseph Pietris is a member of the United States Coast Guard by day and heavily involved in the horror community by night. His work has appeared in several anthologies. When not writing, he’s produced reviews and interviews preferring those works generally lost in the cracks. As an associate editor, Joseph has weeding through the submission piles of horror podcasts.
Joseph’s work can be found at Amazon.com: Joseph P. Pietris: books, biography, latest update