2019 is the year of Jonathan Janz. There. I said it. Flame Tree Press performed the remarkable act of acquiring his previously released titles and then doling them out to us on a pretty aggressive schedule, which is an impressive gesture all on its own…but wait! There’s more. Flame Tree is also releasing new titles from Janz.
Like I said, this is the year of Jonathan Janz and an incredibly exciting time to be a fan. If you haven’t had the pleasure of picking up one of his books, now is the time, my horror loving friends. The Dark Game was my eighth Janz book and it’s one of his new releases. In this story, Janz polishes up a favorite genre trope: a select few are invited to stay at a wealthy—and potentially sinister—host’s home to play a game.
Roderick Wells is a prolific author who invites up-and-coming authors to his estate for a writers retreat/competition. The writer who can endure Wells’ unorthodox methods and scathing humiliation will win a monetary prize, bragging rights and a contract with a New York publisher.
This is a large cast of characters, with the sinister host and his wife plus the ten authors invited to play, but Janz puts his writing skills to work right away, developing characters and giving them unique backstories and voices. I had no trouble keeping everyone straight.
The short chapters help to keep the pace of the story moving at just the right speed. Somewhere around the middle of the book, I realized that the first two parts consists of building and setting up so that when parts three through five come, Janz can tear everything down, strip it back and lay it bare. It was very effective storytelling. I particularly enjoyed the different literary devices like character monologues, diary entries, and all the different excerpts of the stories the authors were writing. It gave the reader a hundred different ways to get to know important details of the character’s pasts without clunky info dumps.
If you’re like me, you’re a reader who enjoys stories involving writers. When an author tells a story involving a writer, it forces that 4th wall to come down and reveal insight into the real life and mind of the writer—perhaps even the man behind the very words you’re reading. This was, perhaps, the most enjoyable aspect of this book. Reading Janz’s The Dark Game was like experiencing the creator speaking through his creation. I highly recommend it.