‘LU­CIFER’ WRITER CE­MENTS HIS STA­TUS

The Modesto Bee - - Scene Explore Entertainment - BY PAUL DI FILIPPO

Writ­ers who tran­si­tion from script­ing comics to craft­ing prose nov­els are few and far be­tween. Aside from Denny O’Neil (“Green Lan­tern/Green Ar­row”), Gerry Con­way (“Spi­der-Man”) and Chris Clare­mont (“X-Men”), the para­mount ex­am­ple is Neil Gaiman, whose early bril­liance in the comics field has been some­what over­shad­owed by his best-sell­ing books.

M.R. Carey racked up two hits early in his own comics ca­reer, helm­ing “Lu­cifer” and “Hell­blazer” for leg­endary stints, and con­tin­ues to pro­duce out­stand­ing work for the Ver­tigo line. But in 2006 he ven­tured into nov­el­writ­ing, and that out­let ....................................................... seems to have be­come his pri­mary means of ex­pres­sion. With the suc­cess of 2014’s “The Girl With All the Gifts,” and its screen adap­ta­tion, it’s safe to say that, like Gaiman, he’s a nov­el­ist who does comics, rather than a comics guy who dab­bles in nov­els.

His new­est book, “Some­one Like Me,” is a spooky, wrench­ing, ex­hil­a­rat­ing ghost story-cum-thriller that man­ages to put a fresh, al­most sci­ence-fic­tional spin on its specters and spooks. It’s do­mes­tic in scope but still de­liv­ers the max­i­mum freight of frights and con­se­quences.

We open with a gutchurn­ing scene of spousal abuse that swiftly re­veals Carey’s tal­ent for taut, eco­nom­i­cal and im­mer­sive prose. Liz Ken­dall is be­ing beaten by her ex­hus­band Marc, an all-toofa­mil­iar or­deal. But this time some­thing’s dif­fer­ent. Obey­ing an odd im­per­a­tive voice in her head — odd, yet in­ti­mate and res­o­nant — Liz fights back. She in­ca­pac­i­tates Marc, the cops come, Liz com­forts her two chil­dren, 16-year-old Zac and 6year-old Molly, and life seems to re­turn to an even keel.

Or does it?

By obey­ing that in­ner de­mon, Liz has opened her­self up to a kind of psy­chic as­sault, an at­tack in­sid­i­ously aimed at her very iden­tity.

Run­ning at the same time as Liz’s nar­ra­tive is the story of a 16-year-old African Amer­i­can girl named Fran Watts. When she was a tod­dler, Fran was ab­ducted by the de­ranged Bruno Pi­cota, and held in the nearby Perry Friendly Mo­tel.

Be­fore long, the nar­ra­tive threads in­ter­twine, for Fran is class­mates with Zac, and the two dis­af­fected lon­ers form a bond.

Carey ce­ments the es­sen­tial foun­da­tion for the ar­cane do­ings by es­tab­lish­ing the two fam­i­lies as quintessen­tially real and be­liev­able.

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