Magical realism has become all the rage. Horror has, as near as I can tell at least, never gone out of style. Naturally authors have wed the two. The Heavenfield falls into this marriage. Although it is billed as ‘dark sci-fi’ in my mind it is as much fantasy as science fiction, and as much horror as both – though I suppose ‘dark’ at least signifies horror.
I stumbled on The Heavenfield looking at the links section of the “Twilight Histories” podcast website. “Twilight Histories” is a history ‘what if’ production that presents the alternate histories in a dramatic fashion as opposed to a simple presentation of alt-historical hypotheses. Naturally they link to some other audio dramas. Heavenfield is a print book that was also made freely available as a series of 28 podcasts. Technically, it was published as a series of four books, though broken in four each part is so small they are more like novellas.
The plot revolves around a secret British research facility that has, though the magic of vague particle physics contacted and sent people into an extra-dimensional place dubbed the heavenfield. The heavenfield looks like idyllic, but, naturally, all is not as it seems. There are beings living there and they have a strong difference of opinion regarding humans. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out what the beings on the two sides are called.
However, I will admit that I am a sucker for this sort of stuff. I find the explorations of the metaphysics the (possible) human soul and what it means to (possible) extra-dimensional, supernatural beings fascinating regardless of whether they are conducted under the label of theology or fiction. Or both, as many religious writers have done.
And that suckerdom is why I jumped on The Heavenfield podcast. The book started off very strong. There was mystery, there was international espionage and skullduggery, there were secret organizations, and there were particle accelerators. It was like Christian apocalyptic literature crossed with Stargate: SG-1.
And then I got to the third part and disappointment set in. It wasn’t dire, it didn’t fall apart completely, but some inexplicably stupid stuff went on. I won’t go into details so as to avoid spoilers, but I have to say that I find authors who have characters do inexplicably stupid stuff (and by this I mean stuff you have trouble chalking up to stress or whatever) lazy. Lazy because they often write these idiotic actions into their novels to create plot points. Good authors find a way to create plot points without turning their characters into morons.
In the end, I wanted to like this more than I did – as much as I did over the first half. I like the themes and I like that the author serialized and podcast his own reading of it. I still think others who share my interest in the themes covered in the book may enjoy it, I would only tell these people to be prepared to roll your eyes a few times as you make your way to the dramatic conclusion.