The Burden, by Edison McDaniels

the-burden-by-edison-mcdaniels coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: Medium Rare Books
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four and a half stars
Book Review by Dennis Kriesel

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The Burden follows Dr. Jordan Maine, a talented neurosurgeon whose daughter tragically dies. Two years later, Maine is far from over the death, becoming obsessed with what happened to his daughter.

Though this alone could make for an interesting read, McDaniels livens things up even more. Jasmine, Jordan’s daughter, resides (well, her soul does) in a sort of holding place. Not really a limbo, it is an earth-like locale that is both beautiful in its scenery and terrifying in what holds dominion over the landscape. Factor in Seth, a boy whose entire short life has revolved around challenges and suffering, and Jenny White, an old woman who knows much about what is happening to Jasmine, Jordan, and Seth, and you have a captivating story.

Jordan has the ability to “touch”, which lets him find out what’s impacting a person. He literally can feel their pain. This gift (if you can call it that) was passed down, but Jordan never had it explained (Jordan’s father died before Jordan’s own birth). As such, though he knows about the touch, his use of it is limited and fairly bumbling. With Jasmine’s death, it becomes a tool for him to capture glimpses of her spiritual location (not exactly its prime purpose).

The story is driven by three key elements, with the nature of Jordan’s touch and its purpose the overarching link. First, Jasmine and her “survival” in the spirit world she exists in, as she is hunted by a hideous creature that consumes souls. Second, Seth and his medical problems, which relate to a power locked within his brain. And third, a series of murders that Jordan is suspected of. All three facets of the novel are fascinating, and witnessing McDaniels resolve them was quite enjoyable.

The overall book quality is very high. This didn’t surprise me; I’ve read several Medium Rare Books and have never read anything “bad” put out by them. A few typos made it through editing, but McDaniels more than makes up for them with a firm grasp of proper sentence structure, pacing, and vocabulary. The novel relies heavily on McDaniels’s own medical knowledge, which is obviously vast. I can only remember one other supernatural medical thriller I’ve read, and this one is far-and-away better done. The brain operation scenes (there are a few) are not tedious, and the layperson should find them quite gripping. The final climax was well paced, and the ending itself fit nicely and provided a sound conclusion.

There are small portions of the book that are a bit rough, in terms of repetitive word choice or confusing sentences, but these are very small and only scattered throughout (though there is one part of the book, where Jenny White recalls her grandmother explaining what the touching is, that has the dialogue interrupted by so many gestures and physical actions that it felt like I was getting slapped upside the head every time I started getting into the grandma’s tale). Overall, finding so few (and such minor) flaws was a welcome sight, especially for a first novel.

If you like supernatural terror, and/or enjoy medical thrillers, pick up a copy of The Burden. Edison McDaniels won’t let you down.

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