First Light is not the darkest of Peter Ackroyd's novels (Hawksmoor has that honor), but fans of the macabre will relish its exhilarating combination of cosmic awe, ancient beings, and creepy underground tunnels, in a humorous suspense story as cleverly paced as a Hitchcock thriller. The story is that the excavation of a neolithic, astronomically aligned grave under the pastoral hills of Dorset, England, coincides with the startling reappearance of ancient stars (including H. P. Lovecraft's Aldebaran) in the night sky. A group of deliciously eccentric characters--archaeologists, astronomers, a stuffy civil servant, a stand-up comic, and vaguely menacing local villagers--converge at the site and collide with each other. As Gabriele Annan wrote in the London Sunday Telegraph, "Ackroyd is such a master of mood, of tension, angst, foreboding, frisson, but also of tenderness and exultation, that one is drawn into his tale as by a magus."
First Light begins with an ominous coincidence: the reappearance of the ancient night sky during the excavation of an astronomically aligned Neolithic grave in Dorset. A group of eccentrics — archaeologists, astronomers, local rustics, a civil servant, and a stand-up comic — converge on the site, disturbing the quiet seclusion of Pilgrin Valley. Someone (or something) is trying to sabotage the best efforts of the excavators, headed by Mark Clare, to unearth the dormant secrets of the burial ground. Meanwhile, at the nearby observatory, astronomer Damien Fall, his telescope focused on the red star Aldebaran, is unnerved by the deeper significance he imputes to the celestial sophistication of the region's ancient inhabitants. And Joey Hanover, a retired music hall and TV entertainer searching for his own past, has learned secrets from Farmer Mint and his son, Boy, the weirdly cryptic guardians of their ancestral home in the valley. All is masterfully woven into an immensely engaging and entertaining novel, a suspenseful reflection on life, nature, and the cosmos, and above all an illuminating and enchanting story.
If You Enjoy "First Light (Paperback)", May We Also Recommend: