Night Class

(No Series)

The college winter break is over, and Caleb Prentiss faces yet another semester of higher education. Struggling with alcoholism and frustrated by his irrelevant classes, Cal seeks solace in the arms of his scholastic-conscious girlfriend and in somnambulistic conversation with a mystifying college radio DJ.
But Cal's ennui is shattered when he discovers evidence of a murder which occurred in his room over the Christmas recess. Obsessed with unearthing the particulars of this gruesome and haunting event, Cal wanders down the grotesque hallowed halls of a university gone mad.

Run-ins with the two hard-nosed campus security guards, relationship hurdles with both friends and lovers, and enigmatic signals from the Dean's icily eminent wife force Caleb to question his place in the bizarre night classes of higher education.

Even as he gets ever closer to the truth, Caleb is plagued by the supernatural occurrence known as stigmata: his hands bleed in imitation of the wounds of Christ whenever someone close to him dies.

And Cal's hands are bleeding a lot these days.

This surreal, somewhat confusing novel didn't push my horror-book buttons. Piccirilli doused the present story with frequent flashback bits; this only works when done sparingly, and so it didn't work here.

University life is always challenging, but for this character, it's unreal. Half the time I really didn't know what was going on. There were some awkward shifts in scenes and sequence. Caleb has his hands full being preoccupied with the mystery of a dead girl no one brings up, memories of his sister's suicide, consulting a strange friend who is a sleeping prophet, all while unraveling bizarre actions of the university leads. Really the story sounds quite good with it's summary - lots going on to mess with the mind and keep interesting - but it just doesn't do that.

The beginning stands as the best part as things unravel, but the middle grew sluggish as it was pulled into too many confusing directions, topped with going back and forth between memories and different shifts of reality. The ending starts to conclude with a decently solid wrap-up/betrayal, but then ruins it all by an ending that's supposed to stand as an ironic twist it doesn't deliver.

Caleb is likeable enough - clearly troubled and it grows worse because of the bizarre university life. Why was he considered so special? The stigmata is cool but nothing comes of it besides it being there, letting him know when someone died. I just don't get his connection with the teacher he hates and what he's seeing beneath the layers. Perhaps if I could grasp the book better, I'd have enjoyed it more.

Overall I'll have to slap a failing grad on The Night Class. It dares to be different - kudos for that. I generally like surreal stories, but this one is so surreal it just loses connection. It's hard to care much about a story that shifts this much. The writing style made it easy to read and quick to finish (although the irrelevant song and poetry lyrics weren't welcome), but that's not enough to save it.

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