“It’s been a decade since the Delongpre family vanished near Bayou Rabineaux, and still no one can explain the events of that dark and sweltering night. No one except Niquette Delongpre, the survivor who ran away from the mangled stretch of guardrail on Highway 22 where the impossible occurred…and kept on running. Who left behind her best friends, Ben and Anthem, to save them from her newfound capacity for destruction…and who alone knows the source of her very bizarre—and very deadly—abilities: an isolated strip of swampland called Elysium.
An accomplished surgeon, Niquette’s father dreamed of transforming the dense acreage surrounded by murky waters into a palatial compound befitting the name his beloved wife gave to it, Elysium: “the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous.” Then, ten years ago, construction workers dug into a long-hidden well, one that snaked down into the deep, black waters of the Louisiana swamp and stirred something that had been there for centuries—a microscopic parasite that perverts the mind and corrupts the body.
Niquette is living proof that things done can’t be undone. Nothing will put her family back together again. And nothing can save her. But as Niquette, Ben, and Anthem uncover the truth of a devastating parasite that has the potential to alter the future of humankind, Niquette grasps the most chilling truths of all: someone else has been infected too. And unlike her, this man is not content to live in the shadows. He is intent to use his newfound powers for one reason only: revenge.”
Thoughts: The Heavens Rise starts out well and slowly devolves into the ridiculous. What was once creepy and downright nasty becomes something quite unbelievable. The horror of the creepy-crawlies as well as the depravity of human nature changes into Dorian Gray-type situation, which would be fine except for the fact that the monsters that result are nothing close to human. There are other idiosyncrasies that ultimately become bothersome more than fearsome and that help to diminish the effectiveness of an interesting premise and intense study on the definition of being human.
The human element of the story is fantastic. Both Ben and Marshall are surprisingly complex even if they are archetypes. Niquette, when she finally does reappear, adds a great counterbalance to Marshall’s thirst for revenge, while Anthem is the universal symbol for what could have been. These characters may be fairly one-dimensional but there is a richness about them that deepens the overall story. This only serves to make the switch to monsters that much more difficult to bear. The symbolism is over the top and only mocks what Mr. Rice was able to achieve prior to the appearance of the living nightmares and other monster figures.
The Heavens Rise is quite the disappointment. It starts out with everything in place to be a great, atmospheric, horror/science fiction novel and ends up still being a horror/science fiction novel but not nearly as great or atmospheric as promised. The Delongpre family disappearance is spooky, while Marshall’s transformation from human vegetable to a fully functioning man is shocking and utterly disturbing. The story takes a turn for the worse with the reappearance of the Delongpre family and the scientific explanations for the parasitic infections. It is only as Niquette is trying to explain herself to Ben wherein the story starts edging into the slightly absurd. The human element loses its prominence in favor of the parasites and gets worse from there. It quickly becomes obvious that The Heavens Rise is Mr. Rice’s first foray in the supernatural because that is by far its weakest aspect. It will be interesting to see if he continues to write stories in this genre or if he will turn away from monsters and mayhem and focus on the mayhem humans create on their own.