By: Jeffrey Wilson
Publication Date: June 2013
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 2013
Jack Keller, a high school science teacher, has a happy, and relatively stable life. Other than the rather mundane work-related stresses, not much goes on in his life. He has a great wife, Pam, and an adorable little girl, Claire, who mean the world to him. All is good in Jack's life. Jack's world, however, is about to be turned into a living hell when he has a nightmare that is all too real.
Jack dreams that he is Sergeant Casey Stillman, a marine stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, during some of the most violent fighting seen during the war. Casey and his men are caught in a street battle, fighting for their lives. As his men drop one by one, Casey makes a daring sprint to another vantage point, only to be shot in the chest. Soon an approaching shadow blocks out the sun (could it be a rescue helicopter?), and Casey feels himself slipping away. At that point in the dream, Jack jumps up from his bed, screaming and sweating as he grabs at his throat.
Pam does her best to console her frightened husband, telling him it's just a dream. Jack eventually calms down and goes on with his day, heading off to work. Unfortunately, as the day progresses, images from his dream come flooding back. Then while at lunch, he hears a tv report on the recent fierce fighting in Fallujah. The reporter mentions the high casualties and Jack starts to wonder...did he have a dream or could it have really happened?
As time goes by, the nightmare returns, repeatedly. In addition, Jack starts seeing, and talking to, Casey's dead comrades. Is Jack going insane or is he really Casey Stillman, caught in some sort of horrible supernatural nightmare? Together with the reader, Jack has to figure out what is happening, while keeping his sanity, as well as try and figure out a way to return to his beloved wife and child.
Fade to Black starts out fast and doesn't let up until the last page. The story begins with an intense battle in Fallujah that takes the lives of Casey's men, and perhaps Casey himself (the reader doesn't find out what happened to Casey until well into the book). Immediately after the battle chapter, we meet Jack as he jumps up from his dream. The story goes back and forth between the two men and their individual hells, and slowly the two lives seem to merge. Or is that just part of the dream? The author, who served two tours in Iraq as a combat surgeon, knows his material and it shows in his writing. Fade to Black is a realistic war story, mixed with a touch of supernatural thriller to create a story you won't be able to put down until you find out just what is happening to Jack Keller.
Quill says: The action doesn't stop till the very last page but the tension and terror of Fade to Black will stay with you long after you've closed the book.