Seven-year-old Rita Hamilton is fond of sleep and believes that Heaven can be found at the beach. She’s staying with her Grandma, who loves her, and her Grandpa, who barely tolerates her, because her mother has finally been locked up in an institution after years of suffering through an alcohol-soaked personality disorder. Grandma is quite worried about Rita’s penchant for sleep and tries to bring her out of her cocoon with a trip to the beach.
While lounging on the sand, Rita’s only friend and confidante, the mean-spirited Emily, makes an ominous appearance and the next thing Rita is conscious of, is awakening in a hospital room after nearly drowning.
Twenty-six years later, married but estranged from Michael and her two children Zack and Angie, and more like her mother than she ever wanted to be, Rita lives in her own, private nightmare, possessed by drug-induced dreams of menacing water rising in her bedroom and telephone calls that may or may not have actually occurred.
Winnipeg author James Cheetham has woven a brilliantly, creepy tapestry highlighted by the horrific, messy, unraveling of the human mind in this superb tale of dark fiction called Fade To Pale. It is so good in fact, that I believe that Stephen King should be worried…very worried. Fade to Pale is unnervingly accomplished for a debut novel and although it has developed a well-deserved cult following, it should be a best-selling, award-winner. Cheetham’s got the writing chops to achieve horror superstardom to rival the likes of King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz.
Nothing is as it seems in Fade To Pale. We slowly discover through Rita’s mental breakdown that her entire existence has been a lie and there was no other way that her destiny could have been played out given the sensational circumstances of her life. We also realize that there is a lot more to Emily than we could have imagined and that one might not exist without the other.
Emily shook her head.
“YOU ARE THE UGLY DUCKLING OF THE HUMAN RACE, AND I’M SORRY FOR THAT BECAUSE UNDERNEATH ALL THIS TRAGEDY YOU ARE ONE OF THE FINEST HUMANS I HAVE EVER MET, THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER MADE ME RECONSIDER MY OWN PLACE IN THE WORLD. YOU ARE THE VIRUS AND I AM THE CURE. THERE WILL BE DIRE CONSEQUENCES IF I DON’T LET FATE TAKE OVER FROM THIS POINT ON. I ONLY HOPE THAT YOU AND YOUR FAULTY MIND CAN GET THROUGHT HIS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.”
Fade To Pale is an intense, chilling, audacious and deeply disturbing psychological thriller about how unbelievably ghastly human beings can behave towards one another, and at the same time it introduces us to another world called the Here and There…a world you don’t want to visit. The nightmarish world that is Rita’s mind invoked remembrance of Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining and more recently, Mike Enslin in the movie 1408 starring John Cusack, based on a short story by King.
The ending of Fade To Pale was satisfying and gave me goosebumps, but I won’t give it away.
My one criticism of the book is that the text should be more generously spaced out (but then again, I need bifocals and don’t have them!) and the layout could be much more attractive, but that’s really not a big deal and does nothing to distract one from the story.
Lovers of horror, psychological thrillers, and dark fiction should NOT miss out on reading James Cheetham’s Fade To Pale. Where there was once Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft to scare us to our cores and make us doubt our sanity, there is now James Cheetham, King of Fear and Loathing on the Canadian prairies.