Aaron is dissatisfied with his lot; his sex life is boring, his job is unsatisfying, his kids are rebelling, and he's got the hots for Caroline, the girl next door. Then while returning some rented DVDs, he sees his groin's desire going into an unmarked door next to the rental store with a man not her husband.
Surmising that this is a sex club, Aaron almost follows Caroline inside. The next day he seeing her jogging, Aaron stops to talk to her, dropping a hint about her late night activities. Piqued, she arranges a meeting at his veterinary clinic and kinda, sorta seduces him, raising the ire of his long-time receptionist, who eventually pays the price for caring.
He is then invited into the club (Penumbra), has mucho sex, and learns the club's terrible secret. It's the home of a supernatural being that, for a price, will grant unimaginable bliss, and this bliss is instantly addicting. After this, Aaron's life plummets completely downhill.
The problem with "Darkness Wakes" is that it's as slow as molasses in January. Aaron stays the same dense, over-age whiner throughout the novel, who mopes around for fifty pages, then is seduced. The novel then goes into tacky sleaze mode for another fifty pages, until the creature is introduced, and it's way too unoriginal to be worth the wait, and it's not even seen enough to be effective. "Darkness Wakes" tries for a "noir" touch; weak male, femme fatale, dark secrets, etc.; but just having the ingredients isn't enough, with the novel just coming across as crude, sleazy, vanilla, and perfunctory. The only good character is the Asian-American Ricia, a throw-away character that shows more personality and growth in her meager twelve pages than all of the rest of the characters, who end up being just so much furniture.
The creature's seductive powers eventually drive people insane, so to pad things out, there are some psychotic mutants (The Forsaken); ex-club members that are killing to get back into the creature's good graces. (?) They really don't accomplish much however, only popping up to keep the plot moving, and to become eventual cannon fodder. There's redundant sex speak, and an out and out cheat ending that not only violates EVERYTHING that has gone on before, but which smacks dangerously close of being a deus ex machina. Waggoner infuses all of his works with some form of surrealism, and this novel is no exception, but the few bits here and there just seem tired or unremarkable. In all of the novels of Waggoner's that I've read, the protagonists all get to their goals, but only through some extreme sacrifice, and there is some of that here, but again, the term "perfunctory" keeps coming into play.
"Darkness Wakes" often comes across as reading like a first draft; rushed, shallow, and, well, perfunctory. This novel has characters that just aren't likable or interesting, and it telegraphs events pages before they happen. When this novel was published Waggoner seemed to be trying to his falling 401k plan, as this was literally his eighth novel in about a year and a half and the strain was showing. "Darkness Wakes" could work as a metaphor for addiction, and all that can be lost because of it, but Waggoner doesn't really go far enough here. Like Death was a near masterpiece, but this book few none of that book's elements, and none of its magic, and was a disappointment to this long-time reader. In the end, this is just one unremarkable novel, that at times seems cobbled together from parts of the Hellbound movies, and needed to be given one more re-write with the good parts strengthened, and the weak parts removed.
This review was originally written for Cemetery Dance magazine a couple of years ago, a magazine that I have done, until recently, about fifty or so reviews for. The management decided, as was their right, not to publish this review, but here it is, but the age of the review is why I am a little vague on some of the novel's details.