John Stick, zoo keeper and giant, just wants to sit alone in a dark room with his pet tarantula. However, when ten thousand birds fall dead from the New Mexican sky, the woman he loves, an ornithologist with severe facial deformity, begs him to decipher the cause. He grudgingly agrees, a decision that plunges him into a tangle of weirdness as old as the American Southwest.
Stick’s investigation reveals that the birds’ mass death is an offshoot of a much larger conflict. On one side, the Good Friends, an underground railroad for undocumented immigrants, wants Stick to oust the man they believe responsible for killing the birds and persecuting immigrants. This same man leads The Minutemen Militia, which covets Stick’s expertise in handling their genetically mutated immigrant-tracking monsters. Meanwhile, a beautiful animal theologian tries to seduce Stick into believing his existence is key to balancing an off-kilter universe. Shady characters whisper of chupacabras loose in the desert. The exsanguinated corpses of strange beasts begin to turn up, some of them Stick’s close pals. At the center of it all lurks an enigmatic antagonist who, so they say, has harnessed the power of God in an ancient hot springs and is using it to herald doomsday.
Stick’s journey upends his stable life, shakes apart his fragile relationships, and sets him on a collision course with his family’s secret ancestry. Ultimately, as chupacabra-like monsters, Minutemen, and Good Friends head toward a final showdown, Stick must make a hard choice about his own identity and values.
Dan Darling is obsessed with the desert. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he studies the people, the creepy-crawlies, and the geography of the sacred dry spaces. Before his current career as an award-winning professor of English, he worked as a bartender, a juggler, an IRS agent, and a magician. Dan has traveled to 20 countries and speaks several languages. His first novel Archaeopteryx hit the shelves in late 2017.