The story involves 10 year old Jake who is experiencing a wide range of strange happenings involving a creepy Melting Man who is somehow connected to a place of fire and torture. While his experiences begin as dreams, they become increasingly real and Jake is thrown into a macabre world that is unsettling to both Jake and the reader. The story was gripping, and I finished it at a rapid pace. Mr. Deininger’s storytelling has an indirect slant to it, which I found very refreshing (and very similar to his earlier novella Fevered Hills). He allows readers to make connections between events, and he does not provide explanations for every odd circumstance. The result is a haunting sense of mystery which keeps the reader invested in the story.
So what were the flaws?
Unlike his previous novella, I found his characters to be internally inconsistent. Their emotions and behavior often switched abruptly from one extreme to another to satisfy the shifting demands of the plot. For instance, Jakes parents alternated between being all-American parents and complete losers (dad produces pornographic movies, for Pete’s sake) at the bat of an eye. At times they care deeply for the child and at other times they couldn’t care less about his well-being. (Jake, too, was a little too sophisticated for a 4th grader – although an endearing character). Minor characters conveniently come and go to fit the scene – but I must say many of these minor characters were incredibly fascinating. One character is brutally killed (and witnessed by Jake, to boot) and the result should have been police investigations and traumatized reactions on the part of the family, but no…the event is a minor inconvenience.
While I found these flaws bothersome, I remain enthusiastic about Mr. Deininger’s fiction. His imagination is fresh and exciting – and after reading these two stunning works I can only expect him to push the boundaries of the horror genre even further. I look forward to his upcoming books with great anticipation.