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Spotlight on: Blue November Storms (Cemetery Dance Novella Series #14) by Brian Freeman

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Blue November Storms by Brian Freeman Brian Freeman, Blue November Storms
(Cemetery Dance Novella Series #14)

Twenty years ago, when they were 18, The Lightning Five did something that the residents of the small Pennsylvania town of Beacon Point still talk about to this day. A young girl died, yet the event was touted as heroic. Tonight is a reunion of sorts: Steven, Harry, Joe, and Matt -- together with Adam, who has been long thought dead -- are going back to The Summer Place on Beacon Point Lake one more time. But there's a meteor storm on the horizon, and when Mother Nature goes awry, The Lightning Five will be changing their name ... one by one.

Brian Freeman can write. I know he can. His novel Black Fire (written under the pseudonym James Kidman) was my favorite book of 2004, and his story "Answering the Call" was a highlight of From the Borderlands (aka Borderlands 5). So I know he can write -- and write well.

I would not know this at all if all I had to go on was Blue November Storms. This 14th offering in the Cemetery Dance Novella Series shows a lot of the style that makes his work a pleasure, but none of the plotting skill. It is highly readable; unfortunately, it is also highly ridiculous. Freeman had me from the beginning with the 20-year friends' reunion. The feelings ran high and true, and I was really enjoying myself, looking forward to a hearty, fast-paced, read with emotional depth.

Then the meteor hit. And it hypnotized every living forest creature in its vicinity, turning them into crazed killing machines: bears that plan, squirrels that "sabotage." It was all I could do to keep from laughing (my fellow commuters tend to frown on such behavior), or throwing the book across the train car (ditto). I wish more focus had been paid to the "heroic" event and its effect on the Five (perhaps with a reenactment) because when it came to the front of the story, I felt none of its expected emotional weight.

It's unfortunate that Jill Bauman's illustrations aren't very effective, either. I'm sure she did her best, but it's difficult to convey the intensity of the bright blue glow of a meteor when you're drawing in black and white -- for a successful take, see Alan Clark's beautiful cover -- also, her image of an attacking bear more closely resembles a teddy with teeth.

Freeman obviously took his time setting up the characters, their thoughts and feelings, and their histories, but then he dropped them into a silly potboiler that is not worthy of them, killing them off with almost unfeeling speed. (If they were only created to die, then why bother making them so real?) Blue November Storms is terrific exposition wasted by a story that doesn't respect it.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.

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