(Legal disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Phoenix Lights by the publisher, Wonderment)
On March 13, 1997 witnesses claim to have observed a huge V-shaped dark UFO, estimated as large as a mile, containing spherical lights hovering over Phoenix and surrounding area. A series of lights appeared, remaining illuminated for several moments, and then going out. Several thousands of people reported that the spaceship was silently gliding directly overhead at low altitude.
Fast forward. On Feb 23, 2015 the Apocalypse happened. You know, the weird one. A month later some aliens from outer space decided it´s the right time for an invasion. Hey, communication takes a while since their home planet is a bit afar from our Mother Earth, and they are probably not traveling with lightning speed exactly. Give them some slack, please. :-)
Gage Slater is working in some supersecret lab, mirroring the mysterious Area 51, created to prevent exactly that, an alien invasion.The-Powers-That-Be don´t wanna be unprepared again. They might not be the friendly sort of aliens...
Kristina Slater, Gage´s sister, is running a popular ´UFO Busters´ reality TV show. Together with her film crew they are after anything that might explain the unexplainable, or sniffing around The Lab. Gage and Kris don´t have the best relationship to each other due some rather unfortunate events in their common past, and now they are more or less on the opposite side of things. And yeap, there are some ´X-Files´ references, coz any book worth its money dealing with aliens needs to have them.
When the aliens arrive they do so pretty damn spectacular, and it´s not a pretty sight. Mountains of dust and ash rains and shockwaves that nukes almost everything under the sun. If you can still see the sun that is. Nope, not the friendly kind of aliens you wanna take home and cuddle. Rather run or die, or run AND die. And some things you cannot make unseen, no matter how desperately you´re trying not to puke your guts out.
In a second story line, running parallel at first, we meet April. A young, blind musician, living with her overcaring mother, and about to move from the small, familiar town of Sedona to LA with her boyfriend. Until she wasn´t anymore since you know, there is this tiny little problem of the aliens and them killing and abducting people.
When things go weird (hah!) the mysterious blindness strikes again. With April it has the oppsite effect. She can see. The beautiful colors in the sky, her own mother for the first time, the features of her boyfriend, the green of the trees in the street she is living in. And the aliens. It doesn´t last, though, for what it is worth. Some events are so horrifying it would have been better not to see them at all.
Trying to survive, while documenting the invasion, and making plans to get the hell out of it, the UFO busters stumble into April and a mysterious stranger, Vincent, who might or might not have survived an airplane crash. Vincent, despite his soothing voice, and friendly manners, is getting the stink eye. His story seems even more bizarre after all than those of the motley crew of Kris´ team. An alien invasion is one thing, getting out unharmed after an airplane crash something else completely.
Phoenix Lights is a fast, action packed story that also gives great insights into the characters motivations, especially prominent in the personal struggle between Kris and Gage to come to terms with each other, and how they deal with life and dying. Often interrupted with short, clipped sentences it gives the narrative a sense of urgency, and of desperate pleas, which makes the reading very intense and emotionally charged.
At the end I felt lost, and paranoid. None of the other Apocalypse Weird books I have read so far made me indeed so scared. Paranoia is not my friend. It puts everything into question, even the book itself on a meta-level, and turns The Lab, or everyone´s existence and their life journeys upside down. David Lynch couldn´t have done a better job, if you can stand his absurd kind of movies. The climax is one of the weirdest, and most unexpected I have seen so far. Whatever you thought you know... forget it! I am reasonably sure the X-Files are a documentary while only scratching the surface. Nightmares here I come! Haunting doesn´t describe it. Not.Even.Close.
As it is custom it ties to other events, and gives a slight overview and glimpse of the outside world, and their destruction, at the end of Phoenix Lights. One gets a sense of how much the different cities are destroyed, and hints to something larger, more nefarious, more darker with every step into the light. Watch out for the signs and trails.
If you are an 800-pound-gorilla (no offense to 800-pound gorillas), sitting in some basement, surfing the conspiracy websites in the dark, living on pizza and beer, and wearing an "The Truth Is Out There" T-Shirt Phoenix Lights will give you some insights into what is really happening in the world of aliens, Illuminati, secret government labs and Area 51. But this could be a tale of tinfoil.
I want to believe!