Book Review: "The Fearing: Book Two - Water and Wind" (2019)
Ah, yes. The wait is over. I’ve been ridiculously satisfied because I finally got my fear-stained mitts on the next installment of John F.D. Taff’s serial nightmare, The Fearing. I showed serious control; stretching it out and making it last. I took my time and caressed every page. I savored the…
…oh, who the hell am I kidding?! If it weren’t for work, I would have easily finished it in one sitting. I was pretty much powerless to stop myself from devouring it (not that I wanted to).
The Fearing: Book Two - Water and Wind widens the view of a world falling apart at the seams. The continuing story opens with Reverend Mark Hubert in Georgia as he prepares to batten down the hatches and ride out a 245 mile per hour, Category Umpteen hurricane that’s covering virtually the entire Atlantic that sprang up literally out of nowhere. I could carry on with the synopsis, but you should go into the second installment hopelessly blind and shivering with abject fear.
This time, there is no preamble to allow you get to know the characters. There’s no tension build full of minor madness to indicate what’s coming. You’re simply smacked right in the face with the improbable made manifest, with biblical revelations and things that make the phrase “nightmare fuel” seem puny. It’s intense. In what is almost a flip of the Book One, you have no time to prepare. You simply have to adjust to the terror. It’s actually a neat trick- the suspension of disbelief is usually a conscious act to some degree. Taff is so good at giving you rich characters and settings that feel like somewhere we all know that you accept the fact that humanity’s fears (be they catastrophic weather, the K.K.K. gone wild, or the literal opening of Hell itself) have exploded across the country. Taff’s mastery of setting, of making your mind’s eye see not just where it is but exactly how dark it is, is wondrous to behold. He understands that the first thing you have to do it to be there in the moment.
He also continues to build the relationships of our expanding group of survivors as they make their way east (even if they don’t know why they’re drawn that direction). The tour bus of the elderly and their combat-ready driver, Rich, are coming to grips with the scope of this new world and beginning to understand it. The trio of teenagers (Kyle, Sarah, and Carli) try desperately to find someone, anyone, as the truth begins to set in. The professor’s theory of why it’s happening is a wicked concept realized to nasty effect; it’s both logical and terrifyingly implacable.
I had to quite literally put the book down for a second and absorb it. No bullshit.
There’s a clear The Stand inspiration at work, both in the characters of Adam Sigel and Monday as well as the drawing together of the survivors. Unlike King’s masterpiece, Taff doesn’t overwhelm you a gargantuan cast. It’s a wise move that keeps the pace lean and mean and the drama close to your heart. The little details keep the flow and language relevant and taut- like Rich “reloading his mouth with and handful of nuts…” as the men discuss the need for more guns while the women are resting. It’s a lovely touch.
From the high-concept thought put into the end of the world to the philosophy underpinning it all, The Fearing: Book Two - Water and Wind is more than simple horror. It’s allegorical. It’s archetypal. It taps into the zeitgeist of the day and age we are living in, thereby becoming as real to the heart and mind as the sum of mankind’s fears are to our brave survivors.
I was jacked up for what came next after Book One. Now, though…now I’m not jacked up or excited anymore. I’m a little freaked out, and that’s a killer place to be (especially for a hardened horror nut like myself). I haven’t been scared in a long time.
The Fearing: Book Two - Water and Wind is available now for presale and releases on August 20th, 2019.