Eternal winter. Which has, at the start of summer, something slightly unhinged, especially when it´s getting warmer and warmer outside with every day. Unhinged is the world, every world, in Apocalypse Weird hence a more fitting date for The Bleak December but June I would think isn´t really possible.
I stay away from over the top comparisons to other writers which were made previously, like Stephen King, as I do believe Kevin G. Summers´ writing can stand on it´s own feet and doesn´t need to be compared to someone´s else. Even there is a bit of an inside joke running here with "This was like the first chapter of a Stephen King novel." This I can live with. At what Kevin G. Summers is really good at, is creating the feeling of paranoia in this small town setting, isolated and cut off from the world at large and small. Where wits and common sense is needed more than anything else. And Summers gives it to them.
Obviously I don´t know anything about the locals of the Granite State and their - what it seems - perma-mistrust against the flatlanders, and I don´t know how well Summers indeed captured it. I would think from observation aka reading The Bleak December pretty well. While it´s only one point of many it seems he got it right in terms of slang and behavior, which also at times added - for me personally - an additional layer of (in a positive way) confusion to it since I´m really unaware of speech patterns for example, and he doesn´t always follow the rules of written English here. I´m not complaining, coz this additional layer - and here I have to use the dreaded word "authenticity" - means there were alot to discover in terms of characterization, and the characters indeed come across as authentic to the choosen setting of New Hampshire. As far as I can tell anyway, which may or may not be an oxymoron.
As it is there are quite a few religious overtones to the story where a cult leader is whipping his followers into a frenzy to take control over Coos Country and New Hampshire, "with a new savior going to render Lord Jesus Christ. First comes darkness and then the light." And darkness literally falls upon everyone out of a sudden. The world (once more as it is custom) not only going blind, but dark. Even everyone is not completely true, since for example Luke, who was previously blind, can see now. The world has shifted, and another knot was tied.
The Bleak December moves along quite nicely, even I wouldn´t call it a thriller exactly, more along the lines of a character-infested novel where the location is (almost) as important as the events unfolding, where one can feel and see the woods, the dark, long roads and generally isolated area. Thanks to his descriptive ways of story-telling Summers creates an rather scary atmosphere. It sure is cold outside, but coffee the old fashioned way and maple syrup and candy might help. And maybe but only maybe someone should make sure the undead stay dead once in a while, but that´s just a suggestion on my part. Ignore me if you must, okaaay?, but ice demons are some scary, evil suckers.
The Bleak December is the first hillbilly Apocalypse Weird novel, something that could have been written by a hog farmer. And before someone gets his or her panties in a twist, Kevin G. Summers IS a hog farmer, raises chickens and grows his own food too. I would argue his - what I would expect even without really knowing - rather isolated farm lifestyle helps to shape his writing and views of the world in this particular form as it is. And it is good. Pretty damn good in fact, since Summers simply leads the way without being a case of the blind leading the blind. Instead he does what every good story teller does, he outlines and then sits back and leaves the narrative those who belong in the spotlight. The story itself as it needed to be told, and their characters with all their different strengths and weaknesses.
While I was already a fan of Apocalypse Weird (the ideas and concept) before the first book, The Red King, was even published, The Bleak December, is one that makes any new discovery set in it extremely exciting (again). That said, while I feel confident this won´t be the end of the world (yet), the world has become a little, actually a lot, colder once more. And that´s a good thing thanks to Kevin G. Summers.
(Legal disclaimer: I received a free pre-publication copy of The Bleak December by Kevin G. Summers from the publisher, Wonderment).