Rash turned out to be a lot more dramatic than I expected it to be. It's billed, sold and packaged as a dark horror novel, but instead of being frightening it's more subtle. While not necessarily a bad thing, I must say at the outset that the novel tended to wear thin on me from the beginning as I was waiting for the horror to begin. However, once I got used to what it really turned out to be - a street drama of sorts - then I accepted it more willingly.
Charles Romalotti, who's previous novel Salad Days made a name for itself in the darker subculture underground, is developing Rash into an independent film. He's also working on Talon, his third novel and sequel to Rash. I wouldn't mind getting a copy of the forthcoming Talon because the ending of Rash left you in a cliffhanger, breathlessly wondering where the split foursome end up.
This story tells the tale of goth-industrial youths on the streets of Texas. It intertwines a medical facility that is testing rash and skin problem medications by using genetic manipulation to create various cures. Open the book with a shooting and close at just where the shooting becomes apparent - a timely tactic. Keep your eyes on the passing days as the time keeping is rather well done.
The characters take a while for you to warm up to. They're cardboard-similar through the first half of the book - the insecure girl and the confident girl, the waify goth boi afraid of his own shadow and the obnoxious painted goth boi. You'll note subtle differences from the norm as the book moves on, until the end when you realize complete personality shifts as each overcomes their fears for good or ill.
For a dramatic tale I think Rash does well. The characters should have been differentiated more in the earlier paragraphs and the book should not have come looking like a horror novel since it's not. The ending was very well played out and the characters do grow on you. While Rash is a modern drama and not a horror, with its riveting closing paragraphs it has set up Talon to be one.
Post: Layman Books, P.O. Box 4702, Austin, TX, 78765-4702
"Rash" by Charles Romalotti
Copyright © 2001 by Charles Romalotti