If you enjoy dark fantasy/horror in your literature or film entertainment, then you probably already know that a wonderful source of horror is when inanimate objects take on ‘life’ and personalities. And one of the best sources is dolls (as is evident by the Chucky films). So author Tim Curran hits on a sure-fire theme for this horror story.
Six friends are on their way home after a night out. The decide to take a short-cut home and end up running over someone. When they get out to see if the person is injured, or worse, they make the more-gruesome discovery that the ‘person’ is actually a life-size doll that was just moments before walking. Thus begins a horrific night in a town called Stokes, a town that the authorities (the young adults managed to make a cell call for an ambulance) claim doesn’t exist since it was destroyed by fire in the ’60’s. The friends look to leave, but the roads in Stokes are a maze that don’t lead anywhere that the now-horrified friends want to go. More dolls now stalk them, chasing the six humans and separating them. An old factory just on the outskirts of town seems to be the focus of the dolls, and the friends look to find answers, and a way out of Stokes by heading to the factory.
Author Curran does a masterful job with setting up this horror story. His characters start out so true and real, and the horror of the mannequins as they pursue their prey. The psychological horror early in the book is very strong and the tension builds well as the wooden dolls ‘clop’ through the streets, and this was a real page-turner. But the psychological horror gives way to horror of the gross, and what was powerful early … the steady rhythmic beating of the wooden legs as they steadily pursued the friends … becomes repetitive and loses its impact. In fact, after the first third of the book, like the streets that repeat, we keep seeing the same basic action again and again. And because it’s impossible to maintain the psychological horror in this sort of repetition, we dissolve into grotesque and disgust. There is certainly a place for this kind of horror, but it’s not how we were set up and it doesn’t replace the tension that was initially so exciting.
I’ve written before how difficult it is to maintain good horror for the length of a novel, and this is a prime example. A good story loses its impact in the attempt to stretch it out to novel length.
Looking for a good book? Doll Face, by Tim Curran, is brilliant horror early, but loses its steam as it tends to repeat itself.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Tim Curran
publisher: Dark Fuse
paperback, 374 pages