In a Dark Dream

November 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm (Reads) (, )

dreamIn a Dark Dream by Charles L. Grant


I was all set to rate this book three stars. I had made it eighty percent of the way through the book, and found all the usual Grant effects in play (the slow build up, the focus on setting and atmosphere, the subtle way he creates characters), but there was nothing that stood out to make it anything beyond that. Then he latched on to a good source of horror, and it made me revise my thinking when it unsettled me. I started thinking three-and-a-half stars, but then he wrote that last line….

Everything in the story leads us to that final line in the book. All of the setting and build up, all of the scenes and events and the characters, all of it takes us to that final line. By itself, it’s an innocuous, gentle, almost treacly moment; with all that’s preceded it, it’s a chilling sentence that runs down your spine like cold rainwater slipping past your collar.

Despite the story’s effectiveness, I still feel like it won’t be a story for everyone. It takes a long time to get going, and the payoff for all the buildup comes late in the book. Casual readers, I think, would grow frustrated with the lack of anything happening, even though all of that nothing is important to the story.

Grant has a particular audience, even among fans of horror. They seem to be split into two camps: those who want the bone and the gristle; and those who want the disquiet and uncertainty. Fans who fall into the first group would be frustrated by Grant’s style, but fans in the latter group will eat his books up.

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