This last month I read “Neon Darkness” by Lauren Shippen. This was the second novel released by Lauren Shippen that is a companion to the audio drama podcast “The Bright Sessions”. I fell in love with “The Bright Sessions” from the first episode. It was an incredibly well written and orated podcast with a twisting and turning storyline. I was over the moon when I heard the writer would be publishing novels to go along with the story I loved.
“The Infinite Noise” was the first novel Lauren Shippen released, following the characters Adam and Caleb. It showed their meeting, the challenges they faced, and how they found love in a world that was made infinitely more complicated by Caleb’s empathic abilities, marking him as Atypical.
With how much I adored the “The Bright Sessions” and “The Infinite Noise” I was so excited for the second novel “A Neon Darkness” to be released, especially since it revealed the origin story of my favorite character, Damien. However, after I read it I had very mixed feelings and reviews about the story as a whole.
“A Neon Darkness” and “The Infinite Noise” both have a similar start in that they drop you right into the narrative without any introduction. As a fan of the podcast, I did like this but at the same time a small introduction or recap would have been nice. For those who haven’t listened to the podcast, I wouldn’t recommend you read the books until you do as you will be missing very important background to aid you in understanding the narrative.
Where “The Infinite Noise” did a good job following the characters and showed their challenges and growth, I feel “A Neon Darkness” didn’t have such a satisfying conclusion or growth of the character I was hoping for. The story introduced amazing new characters and a fascinating plot line, but at the same time, I struggled to stay in the narrative directly connected with Damien and his struggle to control his power. The ending, which I won’t spoil here for those who want to read it, left me feeling a little underwhelmed.
I feel like Damien didn’t really grow or overcome any major challenges. Other than the creation of his name, I didn’t see any change in the character. This may have been the purpose of the story, to show why Damien is the way he is, but I would have liked to see more depth to the character I adored in the podcast.
Overall, “A Neon Darkness” was a good book. Perhaps if someone isn’t as much of a villain fan as I am, you may find more enjoyment in it. The tagline of the book is “What if the villain of your story is you?” and it holds true in the novel by showing the creation of “The Bright Sessions” villain. I just wish I could have seen more of Damien’s motivations and development.
If you are looking for a new fandom to fall into, I HIGHLY recommend “The Bright Sessions”. Listen to the podcast, read “The Infinite Noise” and “A Neon Darkness”, and fall in love with a whole new world!