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Wesley has been a resident of Brookside Group Home for the Mentally Challenged ever since his mother abandoned him there nine years ago. He has been content with his life and his limitations, training for a job at Goodwill and interacting with his friend and attendant Bobby. Lately, though, he has found himself drawn into a world within his own mind, a world of colors and thoughts and memories that frightens him yet also beckons and promises. With each subsequent trip into his mind-world, Wesley emerges with increased mental capacity. He also has developed the ability to heal the sick and injured, a fact that would make him happy if he didn’t sense that all is not good in this landscape within his mind.
This newfound intelligence comes with a price. As Wesley plucks his thoughts out of his mind-world, the void is filled with a dark knowledge, an evil that is just waiting to take over him. He wants nothing to do with this darkness, but others lurk in the background of his mindscape who are desperate to embrace it. Now Wesley finds himself thrown into the middle of a life-or-death competition with brothers and sisters he never knew he had. This is a competition that Wesley is not even sure he wants to win, because the spoils of victory are so horrible that they may very well be worse than death.
Keith Pyeatt’s novel Dark Knowledge is the story about a good versus evil struggle, difficult choices, and sacrifice, as a man finds that some gifts come with unexpected consequences. While it is essentially a horror story, it is also a story of caring and friendship, and I found it to be a very interesting and involving read.
This novel is set in two worlds: physical reality and the world of the mind. We start off taking brief dips into the mind-world along with Wesley, and it is a somewhat surreal mix of colors, shapes, and textures in a bizarre landscape. As the story progresses and the conflict increases, the mind-world changes into something much more threatening, and what initially resembled a dream turns into a nightmare. I found this strange and distorted mindscape to be very well conceived, and while it is easy to get lost and confused while visiting, I believe this is exactly the impression we are supposed to receive.
Mr. Pyeatt has given us a memorable cast of main characters in Dark Knowledge, whether they be personable or not so much so. Regardless of his mental capacity, we connect with Wesley right away. He is one of those pure souls whom it is impossible not to love, and he broke my heart a little bit in this story. Although we celebrate his growing intellect, we also see the negative affect that it has on Wesley’s psyche. His sunny simplicity disappears as he realizes that with the good also comes bad, and he must struggle within himself against the seductive quality of the dark knowledge.
Another character we quickly become attached to is Bobby, Wesley’s attendant. He is almost too good to be true. Here is a man who can see beyond the surface of his charges to appreciate their spirits, regardless of their intellect. He sees Wesley as a friend in spite of his mental challenges, and it is that very caring and friendship that makes him step outside his boundaries to try to keep Wesley from harm.
Wesley’s mother, Lydia straddles the line between good and evil. Mr. Pyeatt has made her a wonderfully creepy character – in fact, she frequently made my skin crawl – and it is impossible to like her, yet we can’t hate her either. Even though she is truly not a nice person and seems hateful and thoughtless towards her son on the surface, she is in fact doing her best to ensure his survival. Her twisted sense of love manages to redeem her somewhat in the end.
There is plenty of violence in this novel both in the physical world and the mindscape, although in the mind-world it takes on a surreal quality. A number of scenes are gruesome and bloody as the conflict escalates, and it peaks for Wesley in a climax that combines physical combat with a desperate psychological struggle.
In all, I found Dark Knowledge to be a very unique reading experience. It is fantastical, fascinating, and well-written, and it touched me emotionally as well as providing a bit of a thrill. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting Wesley any time soon. I don’t think I want to.