Kristopher Rufty's debut novel, Angel Board, is an interesting twist on the classic possession story; but in this case, instead of demonic possession, the protagonist faces what could almost be considered angelic possession. A fast-paced thriller that offers some intriguing concepts about the hereafter, Angel Board is another solid rock in the foundation of Samhain's fledgling Horror Line.
David Barker has decided enough is enough. His dreams have died, his long-time girlfriend has cheated on him, and for him, life holds no more meaning. The time has come for David to take that "big ride", because he's tired of enduring the only thing this world has to offer: pain and disappointment.
As he slips off this Earth, however - slain by his own hand - he's stunned by a vision of inconceivable beauty. A white, pure being that fills his soul with love, acceptance, and a desire to live. This being...she, David is convinced...pulls him back from the brink of sure death, giving him a new lease on life.
And so David's new "relationship" begins. With the aide of an "angel board" - the divine version of an Ouija Board - he's able to contact his savior. And learns, to his astonishment, that his "guardian angel" was doing more than just her "job". She saved David because she loves him, and desperately wants to be with him. Filled with new energy and vigor, David "cleans" up his act, quits drinking and smoking, his angel's love literally making him a new man.
The only problem?
Apparently, God isn't the only jealous divine being. Because David's angel is jealous. Maniacally so. And perhaps, falling from grace to be with her human charge, not entirely sane. Which doesn't bode well for anyone who dares step between her and her beloved. David's miserable boss, his sister, ex-girlfriend, even mother...nothing but obstacles to be removed.
This guardian angel will not be denied. She will be with David. The consequences, ironically, be damned.
Angel Board's pace is excellent and it's an engaging read. It also offers interesting ruminations on the nature of angels, their servanthood to God, and what happens when one of them chooses to rebel like the Greatest Rebel of All Time. At times, however, it's a little hard to feel sympathy for David. Though everyone reacts differently to certain situations, his reasons for committing suicide don't play over well. Also, there are some arcane explanations and devices introduced by a paranormal investigator late in the novel that fall a little flat.
Rufty executes some clever and intricate plotting near the end, however, taking readers on twists and turns while avoiding the dreaded pitfall of dues ex machina. That, and the strength of the novel's prose and its pace make it an enjoyable read, boasting a promising future for Kristopher Rufty.
Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.