Christopher Rice…conjures the shadowed terrors of the Louisiana bayou—where three friends confront a deadly, ancient evil rising to the surface—in this intense and atmospheric new supernatural thriller.
The Literary Atlas Review:
I must admit that I’m disappointed with Christopher Rice’s latest novel The Heavens Rise. I’ve read his novel The Snow Garden and loved it. I have not read his other novels simply because the themes or topics did not interest me. I decided to read The Heavens Rise because stories about deadly, ancient evil often interest me and I do like Christopher Rice as a writer. I find his writing tight and fast paced. He has a gift for creating a gripping atmosphere and the suspense to go with that atmosphere. He creates multi-dimensional characters and each character has his or her own distinct voice. Rice as the author has his own style and voice. And all of those characteristics appear in The Heavens Rise.
However, I could not tell if Rice intended to write a horror story or a thriller. While I read The Heavens Rise, I often wondered when the “horror story” would take over, and when it did, I also found myself thinking: “ah, here we go. This is where things will finally get rolling.” I kept waiting for this story to find its focus and branch off appropriately from its central idea, but that did not happen until close to the end. I think for the number of ideas that Rice tried to develop in this novel: coming of age, revenge, corruption, evil, issues of economic class and race in New Orleans — The Heavens Rise should be longer than 336 pages. I enjoyed reading about New Orleans and I found the issues of race and class eye-opening and interesting reading. For me, the impulses toward prejudice and corruption should have played a more central or integral role to the birth of supernatural evil in the story. For example, the parasites in the swamp—what created them? The prejudices of the people who lived there? Or did the parasites already exist in the swamp and did their influence help create the negative social and economic atmosphere in New Orleans?
I also found myself re-reading certain passages because I kept getting confused about who was doing the action or events seemed disjointed. For example,
Ben glanced over one shoulder, just as Nikki drove the cop to toss his gun over the railing into the river. Then, once he was a good sprint away from them, she released him and he literally spun in place, he was so disoriented.
Then he was knocked off his feet, and before he could think twice, he pulled Nikki down with him. The ship’s bow had slammed into the two-story wall of green glass that enclosed the Amazon Jungle exhibit, and the vast sweep of shattering glass was so loud and piercing, it was like a thousand children screaming at once.
Rice, Christopher (2013-10-15). The Heavens Rise (p. 284). Gallery Books. Kindle Edition.
Maybe it’s just me, but I had to read the above passage a couple of times to figure out who got knocked off his feet. Now I know “he” refers to Ben, but on the first read or two, I had to slow down a lot to figure out that it is Ben who pulls Nikki to safety in the second paragraph. When a reader has to re-read an action scene, a story’s fast pace halts which is not the purpose of an action scene. An action scene should move the story forward—quickly. An editor should have cleaned up the second paragraph.
Am I nitpicking? Maybe. But The Heavens Rise has many places where I had to re-read sections because something wasn’t clear. Usually that something was action-oriented—an event or a process (like possession) that didn’t quite make sense to me. On the other hand, I found all of the characters in the book multi-dimensional and Rice created a unbelievably evil character in Marshall Ferriot. I wish Christopher Rice’s The Heaven’s Rise was more focused and fully developed. The Heavens Rise would have been (potentially) a longer novel, but at the same time, it would have been a deeper story with its themes explored more fully. The Heavens Rise could have been a satisfying read—at least to this reader.