The Dark Side of the Sky

THE DARK SIDE OF THE SKY by Francesco Dimitri.

Titan Books. p/b. £9.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

The Puglian coast. A collective. The Bastion, they call themselves, is led by Becca and Ric Abbracciavento. A gathering will happen. A ritual, as many will describe it. A cult, as others will accuse. Certainly, there will be a mystery. Perhaps a chance to heal. Perhaps even a chance to save the world.

Zoey runs Soul Journey, a highly successful festival – a home for lost souls, as she bills it. Wellness and healing are also what The Open Feast offers. Once a year, they invite new members. The application process is not easy, and Zoey has the added challenge of hiding her real identity so she can find out what this potential competition is offering. Nevertheless, Zoey snags herself a place and leaves her business and her life behind to see what Becca and Ric’s experience will offer.

After her husband’s death, Charlie is bereft. What is she supposed to do now the future she pictured so clearly is gone? She was never supposed to be alone, but here she is at The Open Feast, searching for a chance to move on. Perhaps, she tells herself,  it is time to leave her old life behind. That is until she hears the very familiar sound of her husband’s saxophone. It cannot be, and yet, it is.

The Dark Side of the Sky is narrated in short snippets – interviews, articles, recollections of those who were there, accusations of those who were not – and explores the ideas of belief, control, fanaticism and mass hysteria as events at The Open Feast unfold. We learn of the Bastion from the inside, told through key events in different time periods, and we also see how accusations of Becca and Ric running a ‘doomsday cult’ spiral on the outside.

This is a very clever fantasy that keeps the truth at arm’s length from the reader. All the point-of-view narrators are naturally biased one way or the other, and to the end, we are left wondering whether the ‘proof’ of fantastical happenings was really just the product of drug-fuelled, shared imagination at work.

Dimitri infuses some of Animal Farm into the story to emphasise the barriers between those on the inside and those on the outside, and as Charlie and Zoey discover more about The Bastion and even become part of it, there still remains a divide and a distrust that will lead to devastating consequences for some. A unique offering.

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