Newton's Third Law of Motions states that "For ever action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Michael Cale's latest novel, As the Darkness Deepens, is an interesting study in this universal law as it relates to the forces of good and evil. While this is a common storyline, Cale's strong characterization and the powerful climax give an otherwise trite subject substance to formulate a solid story.
We first meet the unassuming Christopher Jones walking his seven-year-old daughter, Sally, to school. After
hugs and a kiss, Christopher sends his child across the street, when suddenly a careening car slams into Sally, mortally wounding her. In the terror of the moment, Christopher draws upon a mysterious power to heal his daughter, saving her life. This act of love creates an equal and opposite reaction that literally births the story's primary antagonist.
Christopher discovers a renewed sense of self and direction. He transforms from a soft-spoken pushover to a man filled with the need to use his new power for the good of humanity. Eventually, word of his powers spread, and he attracts hundreds and thousands of the hopeless, the infirm, and the insane. Christopher becomes nothing more than a pinball, bouncing off those who want to help to those wanting to take advantage and back again.
Cale, whose 2001 novel, The Room of Shrunken Souls, was an Eppie Finalist, knows how to construct a solid story. Here he does a satisfactory job of blending the good and evil in greedy entertainment executives, religious cults, and the Catholic Church. When all three of these groups collide in the dramatic finale, the reader is given a powerful overview of the morale fallacies harbored in day-to-day dogma. Effectively using the dingy backdrop of south Los Angeles, he builds an array of vivid character that overflow from the 150 page novel.
Despite several annoying dialogue tics and a sometimes sloppy narrative style, Cales nails the characters and setting. I would recommend As the Darkness Deepens to readers as a study in the evil side of morality bringing destruction to good.