So this review I’m doing a little differently than normal. Today is the official release date for The Darkest Loop by James Fant, so at the end of my review, you’ll get to know a little bit about the author, as well as read a couple of excerpts from his novel. Let’s get to it!
If you’ve kept up with either of my blogs, then you’ll already be familiar with James Fant. I wrote a review of his book CoEd several months ago, which you can read here. In turn, he reviewed my novella Reflection in the Music. He recently approached me again about his newest publication, which is appropriately set to be released today, called The Darkest Loop. Here’s the synopsis:
Dallas Anderson is stuck in a time loop that repeats Labor Day 2001 to September 11, 2001. He thinks he must prevent the terrorist attacks to break the loop. But each loop challenges that theory, igniting a fiery romance between him and his best friend’s sister and exposing the dark truth behind Déjà vu.
I can’t think of anything that I disliked about this novel. Although the theme of deja vu is nothing new—I wrote a short story playing around with the idea about a year ago—and plenty of movies and books exist that tackle the subject, I really appreciate the direction that Mr. Fant went with this one.
Dallas, the protagonist, is an ordinary guy with a tendency to stray from anything that could possibly be serious. His best friend, Kevin, invites him over for a Labor Day cookout only for Dallas to discover that it is all a ploy to set him up on a date with Kevin’s sister, Thena. At first thought, they had nothing to bond over, but a tragedy strikes that soon changes that. From Labor Day until the tragic events of 9/11, Dallas and Thena become closer than they ever imagined, until the day after 9/11 when Kevin wakes up and it is Labor Day again. Did he dream all of that, or what?
Or what, indeed. The mission of stopping the September 11 terrorist attacks was suspenseful, thrilling and interesting. I even enjoyed the romantic sub-plot between Dallas and Thena. The first several chapters of the book weren’t the easiest for me to get into because of the need for build-up. Personally speaking, I’m not one who likes repetitiveness, but for a book dealing with time loops and deja vu, it is necessary in order to really tell the story. The first several chapters established plenty of confusion, which is what Dallas was experiencing as he kept reliving the same week of his life over and over again. I really wanted to see what the author was going to do with this storyline, so I kept turning the pages. Once Dallas figured out what was going on, however, the fun really began.
There were so many turns. Every time the clock restarted, the same days would pass yet something new would happen. Obstacle after obstacle appeared out of thin air that wouldn’t have even made sense to Dallas if he were not the one going through it himself. Who are these strange characters that appear in one loop, then disappear? Some things are left to the reader’s imagination and ability to cook up conspiracies.
What I liked most was how the main characters remained ordinary people. They never turned into superheroes. They remained relatable, flawed. They were decent, regular, imperfect people who were just trying to do the right thing, even if it was a stretch as huge as them stopping September 11, 2001 from becoming a day of tragedy eventually written down in history books. Their efforts were not fruitless in the least, though they resulted in an ending that neither of them were expecting and some lives were saved.
I also enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between Dallas and Thena. They had a sort of love at second sight type of attraction. They had known of each other for years, but never got to actually know each other. A lot of the little things that Dallas noticed about Thena were very endearing and sweet. I felt that it rounded the book out and gave the readers a little taste of everything from romance to suspense to sci-fi. I had an idea of how things would end with Thena and Dallas, which took a little bit of the edge off while I was trying to figure out how everything else would turn out.
I knew that I’d read another book by James Fant eventually, once I tackled some others on my to-read list, but I am glad he asked for my two cents on this one because it was a very fun and exciting read. I’ll have to make sure to keep his titles near the top of my to-read list.
James Fant is an award winning author who lives in Charleston, SC with his lovely wife and two hilarious children. He received a degree in biology from College of Charleston and a master’s in business administration from Charleston Southern University. His love for literature was forged by the works of Eric Jerome Dickey, Walter Mosely, and Stephen King. He also finds inspiration from screenwriters Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Sorkin and Kurt Sutter. Literarily, James has always been drawn to intelligent yet imperfect characters and he writes novels with them in mind.
Keep scrolling to read excerpts…
Someone somewhere was giving me a gang of second chances. Who knew when their generosity was going to run out?
So I staked out in the side parking lot of Family Medicine. I backed my Camry into a spot near some bushes so I wouldn’t be seen. But by the time I arrived there at 7:00 in the morning, there was no one to be seeing me anyway.
There I was, sitting in the driver seat like an old flatfoot. Slumped in my seat. A baseball cap pulled over my head. The tint on my windows provided an excellent cover. I spent the entire early morning thinking about the why of the loop. The why haunted me. Eluded me. It had nothing to do with saving Kevin. I knew that now. I knew exactly why I was stuck in a time loop. My mission. But the mission was daunting—much too daunting for one man to tackle. I needed a partner. Thena was the first person who came to mind. It was like a little voice in my head telling me that we were somehow irrevocably linked in some cosmic and spiritual way. In the kind of way that would cause her to believe me when I told her that I was in this loop. The kind of blind faith that would have her help me in perhaps doing what I was chosen to do. But I had to save Kevin. And I couldn’t get hurt in the process. I would sure need my ankle later.
It was nearly noon when I saw Thena walk by and I cursed. Why was she still here? Wasn’t she still mad at Kevin?
Now, I knew that the incident with the van wouldn’t take place for another fifteen minutes or so. So I had to act fast.
I pushed through the lobby doors in my trench coat and ball cap and said, “I knew you were going to let me down!”
“Dallas,” she turned left, right, then back to me. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve told you: I’ve been here before.”
I looked around the lobby. “No…not here. But out there.” I pointed out the dark glass window. “Definitely out there.” Mind you, I was wearing a trench coat in the beginning of September, along with a hat pulled tightly over my eyes. I hadn’t taken stock in the craziness of my outfit. My next statement would sound to Thena as crazy as the outfit I was wearing.
“I’m stuck in a time loop. That’s how I know about Bryant Green—but all I know about him is that you were engaged long ago. That’s not important. I only brought him up because it’s a fact that I know that I could not have known unless I saw you talking to him, and of course your mother told me that you were engaged.”
“Kevin could’ve told you all of that. You know what? You need to leave.”
“Kevin’s coming soon. He’s going to start into that intersection and get demolished unless I save him.”
“I’m calling security.”
“Yesterday, you were wearing light pink toe-nail polish with glitter.” She narrowed her eyes. “Now how would I know that unless you took off your shoes? You didn’t yesterday. Not that yesterday. But on a previous yesterday, you did.”
Thena was motioning to the representative behind the reception counter. “Excuse me! Sir? Would you please call Public Safety?”
“Oh my goodness.” I shot up from my chair. “Kevin’s coming.”
I dashed out, knowing in my heart each step was the sealing of my fate. Sweat pooled at the base of my neck to match the moistness on my forehead. I tossed the hat to the ground. Why? No clue. Maybe I thought in the seconds between my lunging from the glass doors to the sidewalk my hat would slow me down. But that was stupid. The hat—if I still had it—would cushion the blow as my head hit the ground—again. Of course I didn’t feel much pain on my first go round (if that was the first go round of me attempting to save Kevin). But the pain afterwards? The mind gnawing migraines. My ankle feeling like someone had stabbed through it all the way to the bone. And that same someone had the unmitigated gall to leave that knife there. That rusty knife. In the next microsecond it dawned on me: what if I didn’t just get nicked this time? What if that minivan plowed right through me? Or what if I was unsuccessful in pushing Kevin out of the way of the van this time? It was sheer luck that aided me the last time. That stunt man stuff you see in the movies is not as reproducible as you think in the real world. Could I do it twice?
It was the fourth September 10th, 2001 we had spent in New York City. And each of those Mondays discouraged us even more. Hanging around the World Trade Center for a month (real time) got us no closer to the unfettered access we needed. The possibility of being stuck in this ruthless rut forever was starting to weigh heavily on my soul.
“What’s wrong?” Thena asked.
We were standing on the Observation Deck of the South Tower and I hadn’t said a word since we got there. And now, I was looking over the edge of the railing like I might just jump over it. Wouldn’t do me any good, though, considering there was a jumper’s net not far below. And even if there wasn’t, a fall from 110 stories wouldn’t do me any harm. I’d hit the ground then wake up on September 3rd, 2001 remembering absolutely nothing.
“What’s wrong,” she asked again. “Is it the dream?”
“Look, it wasn’t a wet one if that’s what you’re thinking. It was actually more like a nightmare.”
“But one in which you kept screaming out Zoe’s name.”
In my dream, my mother was attacking my father and his girlfriends. A bloody foursome of sorts. Only it was just my mother’s body. But the head belonged to my ex-girlfriend, Zoe. She had a crazed look in her eyes. I watched as she stabbed my father over and over again. And then, as he lay there in a pool of his own blood, she took a Phillips head screwdriver and slowly, sinfully twisted it right-left-right, into my father’s temple. He screamed but the screams were my voice. Begging for Zoe to stop.
“The dream was nothing,” I said. “And everything is cool.” The lie was better than the truth. The truth is I was coming unglued. Destabilized by this loop which faithfully kept twirling us round and round. I was a moon trapped in its orbit. And its gravity was slowly tearing me apart.