(3 / 5)
“To turn or change shape under torsion”. That’s one of the ways Merriam-Webster defines ‘twist’. It’s also an apt name for the main protagonist in Kevin Michael’s latest book. Still Black Remains is the story of Skulls gang member, Twist, and the internal contortions and distortions he undergoes as his beliefs, desires, and humanity come under increasing pressure and strain from real-world people and events. Those events ultimately lead to Twist having to make some life-changing decisions for himself and those around him. Whether he adheres to his own moral compass or forgoes his humanity will be up to the reader to decide.
Much of Still Black Remains is a buildup to the climax at the end of the book. Portions of the dialogue come across as formal, and therefore lack a sense of urban authenticity. Conversely, Michaels does a good job with setting a scene and using the kind of detail that paints a clear picture of Twist’s environment. It is in its third act that Still Black Remains comes alive. The action is well done, to the point but visceral and complete. It chases away some of the mental cobwebs and muted connection to the characters that comes from Michaels’ heavy-handed efforts in earlier chapters to convey how pointless and isolating Twist’s life feels.
The author spends a lot of time communicating the despair, powerlessness, and detachment that Twist and his companions experience. Michaels does that so effectively that the reader begins to wonder why he should care about their lives if they don’t even care about their own. ‘Meaning’ is a significant underlying theme in Still Black Remains. Does anything have meaning other than the meaning we give it? If so, what happens when we stop ascribing meaning to a thing? Does it become worthless? Then what? It’s ultimately up to each individual to decide that. Kevin Michaels wisely doesn’t pretend to know the answers. He’s just asking the questions.