My ratings (1-5):
⭐️ – sincerely dreadful [in which case I probably wouldn’t post a review at all]
⭐️⭐️ – not for me [again, unlikely to review since this is subjective]
⭐️⭐️⭐️ – ok, mostly liked it
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – entertained me
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – loved it
I’ve actually finished a new book!! And since it’s #ReviewMay I’m dropping my review. This was a novella I found via the Horror Novels Facebook group, The Truth in Lies, by Gemma Cartmell. I found myself liking this one, so it’s ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me…
I’m not comparing the prose style with F. R. Tallis in the book comp – more that this is in a similar genre, and plays with the same tropes and conventions. The film comps are a better overall view of what the novella is about, and what tropes/conventions and atmosphere/aesthetic it evokes.
The story itself is a disjointed nightmare sequence full of dream-logic, symbols, confusing turns, grotesqueries and imaginative creatures, held together by an unreliable narrator. Don’t expect too many psychological or psychiatric accuracies, and if you are familiar with this genre then the reveal at the end will not be a surprise, but the journey towards it is surreal and was enough to keep me gliding towards it, like skimming over the surface of someone else’s nightmare.
The narrative doesn’t pull you in deeply – I was distanced from the narrator by the close third person narrative and at the start there was a little bit of head-hopping between Oliver, the protagonist, and Dr Clarke, which was a little off-putting. Once that settled down and tightened on Oliver, the disjointed and deliberately confusing narrative played out with blurred edges, in dreamlike style. The distance helped create this sense of dreaming weightlessness, dropping the reader into different situations and strange illogical quests, as Oliver unravels. It’s a fairly quick read, light and entertaining.
The gore and grotesque elements have the same nightmare quality to them in terms of description: some dismembered bodies are bloodless, for example, a strange dream-like view of body parts that bears no resemblance to reality. There is heavily implied necrophilia (by the antagonist, Jared), but since it’s doubtful that he or anyone else exists, this is another horror of the waking dream or lucid nightmare variety, providing an ick-factor but (from my perspective) fairly mild.
I actually think this novella would be better as a graphic novel, as it relies heavily on the set pieces, the landscapes, the creatures, the symbols, the transformations, and other visual elements. If this was ever going to be a Kickstarter project I’d be really up for that.