Monday, February 2, 2009

Novella Review: Conscience by John Skipp

by John Skipp

Strangely enough, this 'Bonus Novella' tacked onto the end of Skipp's Long Last Call seems like a more substantial tale. In it a tormented child named Charley Webber grows into a dangerous adult who is none-too-shy when it comes to killing. He's killed his own brother, he's killed many of those who bullied him when he was a kid, and he's killed any number of people just because that's what he was paid to do. Death has become something of an occupation for Charley, if not a preoccupation.

And now, in the midst of the media buzz following a would-be messiah professing the impending end of the world, and a new job requiring him to murder a group of women, Charley makes a new acquaintance: himself, or, rather, an exact duplicate of himself, minus all the fear, hatred, and rage, claiming to be his conscience. It's alarming enough when Charley believes he's going crazy, but even more so when it seems that he isn't.

Charley isn't a character that one can easily root for, but that's okay. Skipp isn't trying to make us like the guy, he's merely breaching the subject as to how deep into the darkness one can go and still hope for some semblance of salvation. I suspect that there's no universal answer, but that doesn't mean that the question is any less relevant.

The story moves along at a pretty healthy clip, keeping up the excitement, although a few scenes seemed rushed over and not fully explored. The writing style was drastically different than Long Last Call, almost as if Andrew Vachss had discovered metaphysics.

Well worth the coin, especially when in conjunction with the longer work.


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