By Tim Curran
Pub Date: March 3, 2015
Rating: 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars.
For my money, Tim Curran is the best writer of horror actively typing up a storm. He has a devious mind that delights at scaring the pants off you yet a gift for language and characterization that tells you he is just not a shockmeister. Curran is what the early Stephen King was before he got detoured by little girls lost in the forest, hearts in Atlanta, and rabid Saint Bernards. For pure excitement and bad dreams, it does not get any better than Tim Curran.
Doll Face is his newest offering of terror. While I still prefer Nightcrawlers for its Lovecraftian elements and Blackout for its superb alien invasion plot, Doll Face is still an unique shocker and a roller coaster ride that rarely lets up. The plot hinges around a van full of young people who take a shortcut to get home. That is never a good idea if you are in a horror novel or movie. The protagonists are a cross section of personalities some unlikeable other not so. The van hits someone in road so they get out to investigate while the driver, a real jerk by the way, tries to convince everyone to leave the scene. Yet "leaving the scene" becomes a moot point very quickly. That is where everything goes haywire as they call 911 and discover the town they are in does not exist. It doesn't help that the "person" they hit seems manufactured rather than flesh and blood.
I will leave the rest for you to discover. There is very little down time in this tale. Everyone is running or fighting to survive and attempting to discover what is real and what is not. So it is a gift of the author that he is still able to instill a good amount of characterization in order to make you care, or not care at least in one instance. (Note to author: I hated Chazz.) Much of the characters' dilemma is in determining hallucinations from reality. I usually find that a hard thing to communicate in the written word but Curran has no problem. This is a viscerally descriptive work where smells, sights and sound are important to communicate well and Curran does that. Without giving away anything, I also loved the open ending which sent a few extra chills through my spine. Despite the high level of violence and gore, I would consider this a fairly mainstream novel that casual visitors to the horror genre should seek out too.
This horror gem is a nice introduction to 2015's new crop of scares and keeps up the author's record for high quality terror. If it wasn't quite as good as Nightcrawlers or Blackout, it is still way above average nightmare material, Highly recommended as is anything by Tim Curran.