Ezra Pound famously told writers to “make it new” even while others told them there was nothing new under the sun. Eric Tozzi has managed to do both with the latest addition to the Apocalypse Weird universe, the novel Phoenix Lights.
The title of the book is taken from the 1997 UFO sighting over Phoenix, Arizona and Tozzi uses this background as a springboard for his own world-shattering rendition of an alien invasion. In the text, super-secret lab resident Gage Slater is at odds with his sister, Kris, who deals with an apparent alien abduction by creating a UFO Busters show. In search of what? We don’t know–and neither does Kris or her crew, really–but in the end it doesn’t matter, as the aliens arrives in a massive city-sized ship and find them (and everyone else) first.
Gage and Kris re-connect in the ruins of Sedona, Arizona as they come across a blind musician named April Vargas, who has her own past and problems: in a world of literal blindness, she is able to see for the first time in her life, for a limited time. A much worse problem arives in the form of Vincent, who clearly knows more than he’s saying and has no one’s best interests at heart except his own.
Tozzi has set up a unique sandbox for the AW setting. Even though we get the standard setup of 88, Black Hand minions, and a band of survivors braving the end of everything, the story never seems hackneyed nor the events unnecessary. The action pulls us along on a road trip from hell and never lets up as we find out more about the aliens’ objectives and their reasons for arriving. There’s just enough real life setting to make the wackier potions of the drama seem like they could be possible, which is what good fiction does.
Bottom line is that Tozzi knows how to tell a good story and this book is too darned short. I’m waiting for his next installment and I’m curious to see if anyone will pick up the mantle of a second tier book in this particular setting. (We can hope.) In the meantime, we can buy this book and tell others about it. It’s that good.