BY SEAN CLARK

Author: Iniko

2009, iUniverse, Inc.

Filed under: HistoricalHorrorYoung Adult

This book is a hard one to categorize, as it’s not really horror until the very end, and it’s less young adult than it is sophomoric. What it is is a somewhat valiant attempt at a novel by a clearly untrained author. A small-run indie book riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, Dark Innocence struggles to pace itself or properly establish narrative tension. It does however, have a fair amount of heart, and I must admit I found myself engaged and compelled to finish it as I was reading.

Cisco is a young Oakland delinquent. He prides himself on his skill as a graffiti writer (he designates a “writer” as an artist, while a “tagger” merely vandalizes), but the art he creates while running with his crew is mostly relegated to drunken tagging of dilapidated buildings and vehicles. A short stint in juvenile hall awakens in him, he proclaims, a wish to be good and to live a life which his single immigrant mother can be proud of. He also claims his eyes opened to his true love, Erika, his abstinent and bookish girlfriend.

Of course, just moments out of juvie, Cisco breaks about 10 laws, and beds a random girl in a stolen truck, then his sleeping mother’s house. Most interesting about this is the attitude the character, and indeed–it can can be inferred easily–the author takes on this: that it is okay, and that Cisco is still good at heart. There is a rebellious teenage naïveté that oozes though the narration, and I found myself both chuckling at and admonishing it.

After about three quarters of the short book, we are still wandering to hood parties and meeting new characters. Finally, Cisco convinces some of his friends to join him on his holy grail graffiti mission: a giant abandoned mall visible from the highway. They break in and get high and drunk, then they wander the ruins tagging walls and narrowly escaping falling through holes in the floor to their deaths.

At this point, the narrator has already told us that not all the teens will survive the trip to the mall, but be warned I’m going to come close to spoiling the ending–if that bothers you, skip to the next paragraph. I was pretty sure this was going to result in an easily avoidable accident, from which the book would kick into evangelical overdrive and decry the wanna-be-gangster lifestyle for a wholesome life of goodness and Christ. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and though what did was absolutely silly and unfitting, it pretty much saved the book for me. I won’t give it all away, but it takes an 80’s slasher twist that is so laughable it is enjoyable.

All in all Dark Innocence is a pretty broken and unpolished work, a thinly-veiled memoir with some obvious fictional points added. However it does do a nice job of capturing the mentality of early-90s SoCal Nor Cal teens, and has a charming pathos. The ending was a hoot, even if it was hard to take seriously. So while I usually prefer my books literary and professionally edited, I’m glad I read this, even if only because it brought me back to the days of comically poor workshop novels, for which you can’t fault the author for the effort.

Similar Reads: A Young Girl’s Crimes (Rehak)

18 comments to REVIEW: Dark Innocence

  • Iniko

    Hey, Sean, thanks for the review.
    Guess what? I didn’t graduate from high school. I don’t even have a G.E.D. I’ve just read a lot of books. So I thought id take a stab at it. And no, no workshops either.
    Also, Oakland is located in Nor cal not So cal.
    Thanks anyway. Feels good just to be reviewed.

    • Hi Iniko,
      Thanks for the help with the geography. I’m glad you took a stab at it, and I wish more people would. It’s pretty great that you can run a small print like you did, and somehow I can come across a copy all the way across the country in Boston. And, for the record, it was a better book than the majority of the workshop novels I’ve come across. Thanks for commenting.

  • Iniko

    Is it OK to ask for some advice? What would you have changed about the book if you were me?

    • Well, the biggest thing was the pacing, so you’d want to concentrate on that. You actually did do a pretty good job at foreshadowing the ending (and even tricked me a bit, I totally though you were going for an evangelical ending, and I’m so very glad that you delivered the opposite). But the problem is, the narrative tension was way slack by the time the final scenes arrived. A lot of this was the constant introduction of new characters. Half the cast of the ending was introduced at the very end of the book. That combined with the narrator’s foreboding reveals as the section opened made them feel like useless throwaway characters not to be cared about–which they pretty much were. Ideally, the characters would have been present much longer in the book, as World was, and meant something not only to Cisco, but to the reader as well. This would have helped the pacing earlier, as their own challenges in life could play against the ambivalence Cisco felt between being “good” and running with his crew. With that sort of tension (being caught between two selves, as it were), Cisco would be a far more complex character, surrounded by more complex characters, and that would have made the decision to go to the mall a much heavier one, instead of a foregone conclusion. He said, he wanted to change after juvie, and i think we were supposed to belive he thought that honestly, but I didn’t and would have like to see that inner turmoil. That was a pretty convoluted answer, sorry, I shouldn’t have just written off the cuff. Anyway, if you’d like to talk more, feel free to shoot me an emal: sean@chamberfour.com

  • modpca

    Hey, nice viral marketing for your movie by telling people about it in your pirated movies. real clever. also, what kind of a dumbass cammer puts in thier myspace address?

  • well, i think you mean he marketed his book by plugging for it in illegal downloaded cam movie bootlegs. iniko, that probably not the wisest choice, as it points directly back to you, but all the same i hope it worked for you and best of luck with your future writing.

  • modpca

    of course its not the wisest choice. i’m surprised the Feds aren’t all over him already.

  • Envy

    no dude ruin it for me! what the fuck was in the building first time i heard about this God forsaken book was at the end of the fourth kind (bootleg addition) and now i just got done watching Freddy Kruger, guess who gets mentioned at the end of it; & during it! so now I’m pissed, its obvious that what he saw in the building didn’t bloody take away his capability to write ! (unfortunately)

    email me with lots of details about what was in the mall
    walkingglitch@yahoo.com

  • Someone can email me what he saw in that freakin building??????????????????????

  • INIKO

    I didn’t cam or upload any of those videos. I got people from everywhere helping me any way they can. Bootleggers, graffiti artist, underground rappers, etc… Some just pass out flyers. Now, with that being said, even though I didn’t upload those videos, I don’t protest against it either. It’s gorilla marketing people. The marketing potential is huge with this illegal downloading thing. I’m not gonna play catch up with these dumb f$%#@ at mpaa. I’m taking full advantage. And if they do wanna blame me for those videos, f$%# it, I’ve been to jail before.

  • Wow

    Wow you’re a tool. Would you really go to jail for some free advertising? I mean, really. Maybe for defending someone or yourself that ended up in a death. I’d go for that, but not for shit on a bootleg. Secondly, WHY WOULD YOU SAY IT ON A INTERNET FORUM? YOU KNOW YOUR IP IS STAPLED IN ONLINE POST? It seems to me that you are more prideful than smart. Even if it isnt you that uploaded them, you just admitted in your post that you knew and approved. Suggesting criminal knowledge or intent which is against the law. You may read books, but try reading the right ones and not letting your pride screw you to the small crap. I mean really. Didn’t you decide to do good and change your life or some BS? You really want to waste more of your life on something so small as that? Well, whatever. Heads up

  • Iniko,

    The viral marketing is bold. I saw your book advertised on a bootleg of ECLIPSE and was curious, so did some Googling…I am curious enough that I will buy your novel. So what the hey, the marketing works. A new young author has to do what s/he can, eh?

  • jason

    so let me get this right, everyone is chatting up a storm in this forum in concern for iniko claiming he is bold yet stupid for advertising on bootleg movies………. while admitting they obtained and watched the bootleg movie, knowing it was bootlegged, thus contributing……..and all are uneasy about the federal government agents whom might take action, in turn admitting they’ve comitted the same crimes……..hmmmm

  • michael

    lolol @ jason very true and pretty funny! me…came across this dark innocence thing on the net somewhere…yeah, thats it! whats a bootleg…whats a movie, for that matter? lol ;)

  • Jeremy

    Hey Iniko,

    Havent read your book but I will even though Mr. Smarty Pants said its full of errors. This aint school and you get no grade!!! Its being an artist and expressing your thoughts, dreams and talent. Just dont want to be disappionted to the hype. I like how you commercialize though at the end of movies it show that your a real everyday person using network with others is off the chain. Hope somebody picks up your book and decides to make a retro 80′s slaher movie, that be tight yo. Well good luck hope to hear more.

  • Black

    Book sounds good but alot of u guys are fuckin geeks except some of ya but most of u guys are fuckin geeks

  • tamika w.

    I jus don’t understand why y’all “geeks” are knockin dis man he makin money off his book and i am curious to what the fuck he saw too and these bitch ass mofo’s talkin bout marketin and shit who gives a lovely fuck i got hundreds of bootleg movies and for a dolla a movie u can’t beat dat wit a bat i jus wanna kno what da fuck happened fuck all the smart guy bullshit if u had a negative comment fa da man keep it to ya fucken self and write ya who fucken book if u feel he can’t write one sum ppl jus talk and type and email stewpid shit dat others jus don’t give a flyin fuck about so to the geeks and nerds knockin dis man fa his book “eat shit” and get a life i got ya back iniko all da way from da n.o baby

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