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.