All Smoke Rises review

ALL SMOKE RISES: MILK-BLOOD REDUX - Elderlemon Design, Julie Hutchings, Mark Matthews

The sequel to Milk-Blood: A Tale of Urban Horror picks up pretty much exactly where the original left off. Lilly is not dead, but rather occupies some kind of nether space between worlds. She is brought back by the "loving" administrations of the undead(?) Jervis who injects her with heroin (often of the milk-blood variety) to get her to briefly come back to life - a state in which she is no longer tormented by the words of her long dead mother. Other characters become involved - all of whom are equally lost and doomed - as the book races toward it's elliptical conclusion, where the POV author dumps Lilly's body on you, the reader. Yes, that's right, the wraparound sections are bravely written in the second-person perspective ...

There is a great deal going on Matthew's sequel, and most of it is human spirit-quenchingly dark. Honestly, if you thought Milk-Blood: A Tale of Urban Horror was bleak and nasty, Matthews takes such themes to a whole new level with All Smoke Rises. That said there is a ray of hope toward the end of the narrative, which Matthews himself notes in his Acknowledgements section as being a reaction to how fatalistic his writing was being construed as his fan-base.

Regardless of whether you appreciate this ray of hope or find it tonally inconsistent with the rest of the story, Matthews has a way with words that puts you in the thick of the action. His knowledge of addiction permeates through every page, and for this alone, I would have enjoyed the work. The fact it is also a compelling piece which mixes supernatural themes with the "everyday" horror of heroin addiction is its virtual icing on the cake.

That said, it's not an easy read for these very reasons, and as such, I hesitate to call it an enjoyable one. But dark themes in my entertainment is what I tend to crave, and for that reason, the film version of Matthews' world cannot come quickly enough.

3.5 Clearly Visible Track Marks for All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux.