Black Mariah by Richard Finney

(A Calling, Book #1)
  Science Fiction, Suspense
Published June 2013

Ten years ago, an alien creature came out of nowhere to stop a potential terrorist plot that would have killed thousands of people.

The alien creature became known as “BLACK MARIAH.”

Black Mariah’s initial appearance caused dismay and confusion with the general public. But over the years the alien’s repeated efforts have left no doubt that its sole purpose is to help humanity.

A decade later, most in the world have celebrated Black Mariah’s long list of victorious interventions. Certainly the media has glorified the alien’s invincibility. Despite repeated deadly attacks, Black Mariah always ends up appearing again, ready to fight criminals, terrorists, and power hungry sociopaths, in an effort to save the lives of innocent people worldwide.

Unfortunately... the truth is more complicated.

Since Richard Finney wowed me with his release of Drawing Blood in 2012, I was naturally eager to read more of his stuff. I’m not a science fiction expert if the story or premise is complicated – worlds which are too rarified have intimidated me to the point where I just “haven’t tried them yet,” but this turned out to be a clear cut sci-fi theme for the everyday reader. Perhaps it helps that I enjoy a side of horror or chills with my science fiction. And while this one wasn’t scary, it does hold mystery with it that has the potential to be.

The story is easy to follow along with and holds plenty of curiosity on what’s happening next without crossing the cheesy line of leaving too many obvious “read more” cliffhanger carrots dangling. I can’t say much about the plot safely, fearing to accidentally give too much away, but I can say it is a slow, delicate revealing of a bigger picture.

Richard Finney holds a knack for creating convincing, likeable characters without having to put a lot of excess wording in or use explained back history to do it. Of course Black Mariah stands as the most intriguing of the characters. Even if there is a surprising revelation about him at the end, he stands embraced in mystery most of the time. He gets less page time than one would expect, but this makes him more interesting when does appear.

The focus is on another strange man who has something wrong with him. (What it is exactly also remains a bit of a mystery, one I’d love to solve in the next novel.) The cliffhanger on that side story certainly intrigued. I enjoyed the humor of two other mains, Chris and Jeri, and the author purposely keeps the reader in the dark on their exact intent until the perfect timing.

Overall a clean, quick read that holds interest from the beginning, leaves a dusting of questions making you want more when it’s over and done with, but not so much that you’re left feeling frustrated. There’s plenty left to be learned regarding the characters, many questions raised, and all the mains personalities endeared them to me. Recommended for everyone to give a try, whether you’re a strong sci-fi fan or a mild one (like me.)

   Book Quote:

“My father and I used to watch a ton of old horror movies when I was growing up. ’The Creature from the Black Lagoon‘ was one of my father’s favorites and he was very excited for me to see the film. But after the movie was over, I told him that I was kind of bored. I said to him, ‘I’m sorry, Daddy, but I saw the zipper in the back of the monster’s costume. From that point on, I was really never scared at all. The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t believe someone intentionally tipped off the target. And I maintain that no one made some horrendous mistake, which I’m now trying to cover up. I believe what really happened with the operation was that our target ended up seeing the zipper. Orlo Kharms realized something around him wasn’t… real. And he was able to avoid the trap we had laid out for him." - Cassie Peters

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