There is something deeply disturbing and all too familiar about Mark Allan Gunnells’ new novel. When it rains. Maybe he’s only been living through a pandemic for the last two years. Maybe it’s the very real climate crisis that’s looming. In any case, the author is skilfully moving to the bone with a story that seems to have been taken out of the local news.
On a seemingly normal, sunny day, a mysterious rain begins to fall. That, in itself, is not so strange. What’s weird is that it doesn’t feel like rain at all. It is a sticky, globular, oily substance. It also happens to cover the whole world. Instead of focusing on the reaction of the world, the author throws us into a small, elegant university campus, where students and locals take shelter from the storm inside a bookstore / cafe.
As the paranoia grows over what could be the storm, the little crowd turns to one another, exiling those who have been caught in the rain.
Interestingly, Gunnells is setting the story sometime in the future, beyond our own pandemic experiences. He rightly offered his characters memories of the past and how things were handled. It is also quite remarkable how throwing a term like “self-isolation” causes a visceral, glittering reaction in the reader.
The author also draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies, television series, and books to emphasize his character’s thoughts. References to The fog, The standand even the classic Twilight area The episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” reminds us that this idea is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. Whether it’s a pack of street troubled neighbors or religious fanatics in a supermarket, human nature is often the most terrifying monster of all.
But perhaps the strongest and most demanding truth It’s raining is that people have a remarkable tendency to be right and wrong at the same time. Our vestigial responses to battle or flight can lead us and often lead us astray. Is it because we are too far away to feel the sources of the real danger around us? Or because we have become so numb from those dangers that they feel more like a fact of life?
I’m not sure I have an answer to that question. Neither does the author, but he certainly seems to be asking someone … anyone … to let us know.
When it rains presents an interesting cast of characters, but unfortunately none of them are as complete as they could have been. I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t due to a need for conciseness in the story or if it was an intriguing device in itself. We are only given enough information about the players in this horror drama to put names on their faces, perhaps to give us the same look at each other that the group of aliens have for the most part with each other.
The exception here is Vincent, Tony’s husband who works in the campus bookstore. He is more developed than any other character in the book, and eventually he becomes our faulty moral compass.
Overall, however, When it rains it’s an interesting, quick read, perfect for a rainy afternoon … or maybe you should wait until it’s sunny outside. Either way, you’re enjoying a real treat.
You can pick up a copy of When it rains of CLICK HERE. The book is also available on Kindle Unlimited!