Invisible Fences

November 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

fencesInvisible Fences by Norman Prentiss


Before reading this novella, I thought “Quiet Horror” was a realm to which only Charles L. Grant belonged. He’s still a one-and-only (the atmosphere he creates is unique), but Norman Prentiss is an author who understands it well enough to do his own version of a Charles L. Grant story. Invisible Fences is it.

The title refers to those devices used to keep dogs in yards, using a collar and an underground perimeter line. The author expounds on the idea by telling us how parents create invisible fences for their children: don’t cross this street because a car could run you over; don’t go into the woods because the junkies shoot up back there; don’t leave the yard because we don’t trust the people who live down the road. Sometimes it’s for our own good, but it’s the self-inflicted fences we create that can do the most damage, like when we stop leaving the house after one of our children dies.

The story takes its time building up the narrator and main character, from the time he was around eight to the time when he’s in his thirties. He tells us the story of his childhood and those fences, and despite the point sometimes eluding us, the story is strangely compelling. Prentiss has a natural style that draws us in, and he has an eye for detail and an ear for dialogue. It’s disarming, all the more so when the ball finally drops and we understand the reality of what we’ve been reading. It’s chill-inducing.

Like Grant’s In a Dark Dream, the story builds up toward its ending. Parts of it seem unimportant, and readers might find themselves questioning the point of it all; all I can say is “Hang in there.” It will come.

I had already added Prentiss to my “authors to read” list, thanks to his short stories in the Dark Screams anthologies I read, but Invisible Fences reinforces that decision. I’m not sure if all of his stories have this quiet effect, but it only took two short stories and a novella to see how effective he is, so I’ll be here for the long haul.

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