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Christopher Rice holds his mother, the late, great Anne Rice, primarily responsible for his obsession with the afterlife. The minute he told her that he was going to write a novel about it, she sent him nearly every book published regarding near-death experiences. The end result is DECIMATE, which is quite possibly the best solo effort of Rice’s career and an effective genre-bending book that provide chills and thrills to both fans and newcomers of his always impressive work.

The action begins 14 years in the past on a family camping trip in the woods of Montana that is about to go sideways in bizarre fashion. Claire Huntley and her younger brother, Poe, slip away from the camp where their father --- described as a cross between Sam Elliott and Brad Pitt, but without their mental acuity --- is lying. It’s midnight, and their flashlights keep playing tricks on them. At this point, the earth begins to shake with the power of a quake. Claire feels Poe’s chest slam into hers. Amazingly enough, they are both flying!

"Christopher Rice has written a novel that provides hope and even peace in the face of so much darkness and pain that we face every day. It is the most important work of his career."

Before they can wrap their minds around what’s happening to them, they crash back onto the earth and are taken to the hospital for various tests. However, it’s not the results of any test that will follow them for the rest of their lives, but the version of the story that their father tells everyone about what happened that night.

In the present day, Claire is a teacher who still suffers anxiety attacks over that fateful hike. Poe has since fallen in and out of addiction and various treatments while trying to figure out for himself what they experienced. He is flying out to see his sister after a long absence from any sort of family gathering. Maybe that is why Claire is so spooked when one of her students points out that someone wrote on her chalkboard love you bear. “Bear” was the nickname Poe gave her, but no one else knew that. Who could have done this?

Meanwhile, Claire must come face to face with an absolute nightmare. Poe’s crowded passenger plane has plunged into the Colorado mountains, and there are no survivors. She is mourning and processing all of this with her new stepsister, Melissa, and recounting how she has always felt connected to Poe in a strange way, which is indicative of the various “Bear” messages found around her home.

Rice begins to quietly introduce us to some of the supporting players who will have an impact on Claire and Poe’s story. One is an odd, ghoul-like character named Vernon, whose mere presence and ability is both similar and contrary to the siblings. The others are a clandestine team that seems to be operating behind the scenes, yet they’re quite aware of everyone --- it’s like they’re playing a master chess board from above and watching out for the results. Randy, the obvious leader of this group, refers to something called Operation Clean Sweep, which is a last resort for what they’re witnessing. If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry. That’s what makes DECIMATE so much fun...and trust me, it all will come together and reward you for your patience in spades.

Meanwhile, Claire receives a call from her estranged father requesting that she return to Montana. Something is going to happen there that she can’t miss. Upon her arrival, they await some sort of psychic message. Could it be from Poe or perhaps something far larger? Vernon also will converge on the event that is to come, as the novel’s climax begins to move all of these characters in the same direction.

Christopher Rice has written a novel that provides hope and even peace in the face of so much darkness and pain that we face every day. It is the most important work of his career.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 13, 2022

by Christopher Rice