Normally at this point, I'd start the review by saying Robin Parrish has done it again. Instead, I am thrilled to say this is the best writing Robin Parrish has ever done.
To be sure, I've been a fan of Parrish's fiction since he first started crafting his serial novel on Fuse Magazine (later Infuze Magazine) that eventually was re-worked as Relentless (Dominion Trilogy #1), the first book of the Dominion Trilogy. That novel was good, the second was better and the third improved on the previous. Parrish's standalone novel that followed, Offworld was good, but different, and had some minor hiccups.
But forget all that - Nightmare is Parrish at his suspenseful best. The pacing is near-perfect - bouncing back and forth between the current time and the previous year, revealing piece by piece of the larger story with a style reminiscent of the TV phenomenon Lost, but executed much tighter, more brilliantly.
The first person narrative instantly draws you in and develops a relationship between you and protagonist Maia Peters that keeps you interested and entertained, like a good storyteller recalling events. It very much reminded me of my favorite Dean Koontz novel, Life Expectancy. Maia's voice is unique and witty and personable enough that she feels like an old friend, despite her experiences that some readers may find hard to relate to. In fact, it is Parrish's particular attention to Maia's voice and resulting character that allows us to be enveloped in her world, even when some might doubt its believability otherwise. The fact that she appeals even to Parrish's Christian readers who don't share her beliefs is a testament to Parrish's deft handling of her personality that lesser writers might have completely screwed up.
I've seen where other reviewers (here and on other sites) have complained that Parrish focuses too much on the supernatural and on the "ghostly" sites, without forcing more of a Christian worldview onto the plotline. Quite frankly, if he had tried to do that, the story would have severely suffered, as would the credibility of Maia, who is NOT a Christian. However, Parrish balances Maia's decidedly non-mainstream Christian belief systems with that of Derek, her missing friend's fiancee, who is both secure in his beliefs and on the path to becoming a minister like previous generations of his family. Granted, Derek is mocked by Maia, but she admits and develops a grudging, at times, respect for him and his beliefs. What's more, he's presented as being rational, intelligent and established in his own beliefs - he didn't just inherit them from his parents or teachers. And I believe that Parrish's own influence comes out in the development of the characters - which is how it should work - we don't need explicit statements of belief or conversion stories to make a story acceptible to Christian readers. I think Parrish's subtlety is much more accessible to non-believers and agnostics and would be more likely to make them consider such issues than the explicit scenes in other Christian fiction.
Further, as someone who has had a little experience in this world, Parrish shows that he has done his research and tried to stay true to the experiences recorded by people in similar situations, which again, lends credibility to the characters and the storyline. And some folks seem to forget or ignore that while Maia is not a Christian, she DOES have a great respect for the supernatural and the boundaries we should and shouldn't cross. Without spoiling the story, she at times acts far more Christian than the people who claim to have Christian beliefs around her in the story. And respect for the supernatural, regardless of whether you believe in ghosts, aliens, or demons, is a much better (and more Biblical) response than hiding our heads in the sand as some reviewers have advocated.
I'll get off the soapbox now and just conclude that with the tightly paced and plotted storyline, the excellent characterizations and the attention to story details made this one of my favorite reads of all time. In suspense fiction, it stands easily next to Dean Koontz and Stephen King. This is one you won't want to miss!