A Review of Ian Rogers’ The Ash Angels (Burning Effigy Press, 2010)
By Derek Newman-Stille
The second book in Ian Rogers’ Felix Renn series, The Ash Angels, abstracts issues of depression onto a supernatural enemy. Rogers delves into the heart of depression, exploring the hollow emptiness of the soul, and the monstrous internal threat of the suicidal impulse. Unlike other novels that have delved into pure fear and horror, The Ash Angels explores the horror of the depressed state and the betrayal of one’s own mind that occurs as one enters into the dark, empty, hollowness within.
Ian Rogers turns the image of the snow angel, an image of joy and playfulness in the winter into one of darkness. The angels are made of ash, dark grey and devoid of life. They are the aftermath of a depressed state and a link to the internal suicidal impulse. The fact that he sets his story around the holiday season brings the image of depression into sharp focus.
By attributing a supernatural cause to the depressive impulse, Ian Rogers subverts the notion that our society has developed that depression is something that comes from within – that it is a choice – and instead frames depression as something external, inexplicable, and not easily solved by personal will. He allows the reader to see that the depressive impulse is not a personal choice to be unhappy, or a lack of effort to find happiness, but rather situates it as something that is sudden, violent, and external to the individual. He causes the reader to stop and speculate about the nature of depression and the depths of horror that the depressive impulse causes for those with chronic depression. By attributing a supernatural cause to the issue, Rogers allows the reader to approach depression from a safe distance, to explore it through a lens of fiction and safety that doesn’t automatically bring up the dark figures in one’s own mind.
This novel is truly terrifying because it deals with the lack of control that comes with depression; the lack of agency and internal chaos that comes when one is submerged in one’s own shadows. These monsters, although external in the novel, are internal for many people and serve as a reminder of the lurking dangers within one’s own soul and the slight change that is needed to plunge a person into darkness.
You can read more about Ian Rogers at http://www.ian-rogers.com/ . To get more information on Rogers’ world of The Black Lands, check out his site http://theblacklands.com/ , which contains a history of the Black Lands, background on the Paranormal Intelligence Agency, and a list of the Felix Renn books and short stories.