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Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand
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Available Dark: 02/12/23

Available Dark

Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand (2011) is the second book in the Cass Neary series. I read the original book, Generation Loss in 2011 when I was looking to expand my reading of Hand's works from beyond her short stories. How I missed that there was second book out the year I read the first is beyond me, but here we are.

So now, twelve years later, many more books under my belt, I am drawing connections that I certainly wouldn't have made had I read Available Dark in 2011 or 2012. Take this review too with the knowledge that I read the book in the run up to the winter solstice and Christmas.

Cass Neary, still raddled and in hiding after the events in Maine, is recruited to Helsinki to authenticate a collection of gruesome photographs. Death follows her and soon the photographer and his assistant are dead and she's once again on the run.

Her flight takes to her to Reykjavík, Iceland and to the wilderness beyond the coastal city. The farther she goes, the more embroiled in the imagery of the Great Hunt she becomes. This novel being a mystery with horror undertones, Casey's observations on the similarity of her situation to the Hunt draws her to thoughts of both Odin and Krampus.

There is no denying the links that the Hunt shares with modern day Christmas. The dangerous landscape and the fear of being followed, that propagates through this novel had me thinking of the second half of The Hogfather (1996) and especially the 2006 two part miniseries. But the talk of Odin and the fact that Christmas was around the corner, had me thinking of The Librarians episode, "And Santa's Midnight Run" (Season 1, Episode 4).

I wanted to enjoy this novel as much as I had the first but I didn't. I found Casey's reliance on drugs tiresome. I found her incredible luck oddly convenient. The way death kept following her was also difficult to swallow at times.

Chart showing the progression between books on the Road Narrative Spectrum.

Like Generation Loss, Available Dark sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. Casey, as someone on the outs and on the run, remains a marginalized traveler (66). Her destination this time is utopia (FF) — represented by the impossible places she keeps finding as she flees in terror. Her route there is the Maze (CC) as her route is full of traps, blind alleys, and danger.

The third book is Hard Light (2016).

Three stars

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