Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It's 2AM, the fear is gone

So, I just finished reading Christopher Golden's new novel, Dead Ringers.  Which was....interesting.

We actually have a prologue to start, in which a man named Frank Lindburgh reflects on his horrible like, slowing drowning in booze much like his father did. He's lost his job as a reporter, with internet killing off print journalism. We hear of his downward spiral, and endure quite a bit of his backstory until he hears a noise in his kitchen. Going to investigate, he finds a man wearing his face who promptly beats the stuffing out of him.

From there, we center on Tess Devlin, who's introduced as she starts cussing out a man who looks exactly like her ex-husband Nick. Problem being Nick's in New Hampshire with his new girlfriend, not in Boston being verbally assaulted by his ex. Tess's best friend, Lili, goes to an art gallery, only to be mistaken for the featured artist. Frank, as it turns out, has been handcuffed to a post in his basement while his double goes out and leads a better life than anything Frank's accomplished in recent memory. And then there's Audrey, the married lesbian psychic who's wife is pregnant. Audrey's first encounter with the strangeness involves a run down to the beach and being assaulted by a filthy man dressed in rags and a look like Oedipus at the end of Oedipus Rex.

As the week passes in book time, we begin to get glimpses of what links all these characters, why there's a Psychomanteum in a fancy hotel restaurant, And the very real existential question of who is the real person.

The book has some genuinely creepy moments, like Tess's first encounter with her double, which happens when Tess wakes up in the middle of the night to her double standing over her bed and Tess's double pretending to be Tess's daughter's mother. Also, when we see what the Raggedy Man is actually doing, it's a terror inducing moment.

Unfortunately, when we get the real picture on what's been happening about 2/3 of the way through the book (which most readers will have figured out a few chapters earlier), the reveal plays out like the end of a Scooby Doo episode. I fully expected the revelation to end with "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids and your dog!"

At its best, which thankfully is the majority of the book, it's a bit like reading a Twilight Zone episode. (Specifically "Shatterday" from the 80's reboot, which wiki says was based on a Harlan Ellis story.)  At its worst, you can hear the canned laughter and incidental music in the background.