by Stacey Longo
Gordon Anthony Bean’s debut novel, Dawn of Broken Glass, is a story of revenge, conceived by World War II Kristallnacht survivor Michael Carson and largely executed by his grandson, Ryan. Michael’s revenge is focused on the ancestors of the soldiers who mercilessly slaughtered Michael’s family.
The story opens by setting up the scene that results in Michael’s unwavering desire for vengeance. The scenario is gruesome, and Michael comes off as unlikable and warped. Ryan, too, seems motivated to carry out his grandfather’s plot mostly out of spineless fear, which makes him unlikable as well. Stick with it, though: once the soldiers’ living family members are collected and sent into a twisted, trap-filled labyrinth, that’s when the fun begins.
The maze is full of all sorts of ghoulish delights, from killer rats to tunnels wrapped in barbed wire. Each turn reveals a new horror, and our hapless victims work hard to try and escape. On top of the pitfalls that each tunnel offers, there’s also a monster stalking them, and a true baddie—Michael Carson’s assistant, Jason Froemmer—intent on making sure nobody makes it out alive.
As the story moves on, Ryan is fleshed out more, and the reader finds that he’s not such a bad guy, after all. He makes his way into the labyrinth to try and help some of his grandfather’s helpless quarry, and manages to redeem himself amid the chaos. The golem, which Ryan might possibly be able to control, yet doesn’t, is a satisfying recapturing of a centuries-old monster myth. And one of the descendants of the soldiers embodies all that was terrible about the Holocaust. You’ll be rooting for most of the participants to survive, but Paul Kaufmann, a racist and disgusting human being, will be the one you kind of hope doesn’t make it.
Dawn of Broken Glass offers a glimpse at the true ugliness of revenge and human nature. But it also offers hope: for survival, for redemption, and for faith in the kindness of strangers.