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Those Who Walk in Darkness    by John Ridley order for
Those Who Walk in Darkness
by John Ridley
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This story has a unique premise, but develops slowly. In Those Who Walk in Darkness, humanity has mutated to create legendary superheroes ... and supervillains. At first their abilities were welcomed by normals, but then came the catastrophe in San Francisco when Bludlust destroyed the city. Now, though metanormals have been banned from the United States (they are still welcome in Europe), many of these demigods have gone underground and are hunted down at every opportunity by special police MTac units.

Soledad, a new MTac officer, is out on her first call, against a rogue pyrokinetic, a flamethrower. She's badly scarred and a fellow unit member killed in this encounter, but Soledad was already obsessed with her private war on the 'freaks'. Now she's in trouble with the authorities, under investigation for using an 'all-electronic handgun' of her own design, with specialized bullets, able to take down different types of mutants - aside from telepaths, who can force ordinary humans to do their will. Fellow officers nickname her 'Bullet'.

Soledad is an anti-heroine, a loner who, though courageous, is not very likeable at all. She slowly develops a relationship with Ian, a man that she met by chance, but does not tell him her profession. Then she kills an angel, a winged woman who has been performing miracles to save people. The angel's husband is a telepath and begins to target MTac units in revenge, leading to a deadly encounter with Soledad's new unit, and a big surprise in Soledad's personal life.

The fear of normals for mutated humans is not new to speculative fiction, A. E. van Vogt's Slan being a prime example. Those Who Walk in Darkness brings a nice twist to the topic with the notion of a backlash against superheroes. It's heavy on violence and light in characterization, defiinitely for those who like their fantasy on the noir side.

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