cover image Nightlight


Michael Cadnum / Author St. Martin's Press $15.95 (198p) ISBN

Although billed as horror/science fiction, poet Cadnum's (Foreign Springs) first novel is neither, nor is it effective psychodrama. Programmed to expect that something unreal and horrible will happen, the reader never feels the frisson of fear essential to the genre. Part of a prominent San Francisco family ``that has always craved secrecy,'' Mary Lewis sends her nephew, Paul Wright, to check on her neurotic son, Len, who has hidden himself away in a remote cabin in the wilderness. Having found pictures Len has taken inside his grandfather's crypt, and aware of secrets in her own past, Mary thinks that Len is trying to turn himself into her dead father. Floods and fire come into the narrative, but despite these natural disasters and many of the conventional accoutrements of horror, Cadnum fails to imbue his story with genuine suspense. The writing is deliberately oblique, the characters are flat and their dialogue virtually interchangeable. And the plot device of a spectral voice has been seriously overdone. (Mar.)