Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Worst Nightmares by Shane Briant

I’m putting the review in a non-SFF category because it isn’t SFF at all – just a bloody good thriller! :-)

Let’s get the intro out of the way so I can get to telling you why you should buy this book as soon as you see it and read it as soon as possible! :-)

Worst Nightmares follows Dermot Nolan, a Booker-prize winning author and darling of the literary scene, who needs to come up with another wonderful novel before, his agent drops him, his publisher demands the advance that they paid him back, and he loses all credibility in literary circles. Throw into the mix a wife (and editor) who is ready to have kids and a best friend who is doing better, financially and in almost every other aspect, than his best-selling friend, and you’ve already got a brew of plotlines that would suit any novel. But when a crazy homeless guy shoves an envelope into Dermot’s mailbox and he discovers a macabre diary in it, that’s when things start getting really interesting – because Dermot takes the diary, detailing horrific murders by someone called the Dream Healer, and begins thinking that he could just adapt the diary and publish it as his own book….

You see, the Dream Healer finds out what your worst nightmare is, tracks you down, and visits that worst nightmare upon you – but surely it can’t actually have happened? Surely all the murders in the diary are made up! After all, what does a crazy homeless guy know about writing a book? Dermot begins investigating some of the ‘murders’ and as he discovers that the diary is not just a diary, he realizes he may just have written himself into his own worst nightmare.

It took me a few chapters to warm up to this book, I’ll admit that. Why? Well, I just couldn’t shake the ‘Saw” vibe (and I am a big fan of the Saw story, as well as the traps, of course), and as I read, I guess I was hoping so much that the book wouldn’t be just another ‘Saw’ that I didn’t enjoy the first 2 ore so chapters as much as I could have. But trust me on this one: there comes a point, early in the book, that an event takes place that really makes you sit up and take notice! By then you’ll be hooked, just as I was, and this speaks to one of Shane’s greatest strengths as a storyteller – the ability to lull you into thinking exactly what he wants you to think before snapping a surprise out at you! Shane’s talent at creating thrills and ramping up the levels of those thrills is something to behold – you may just find yourself staying up wayyy past your bedtime! :-)

Shane also creates believable characters, people in their own right who we can sympathize with, cheer on, swear at – he could have just created flat 2-dimensional characters because, lets face it, the concept of the book is interesting enough that it probably could have worked. But Shane doesn’t write that way – his characters live and breathe, react to situations as we probably would, and above all, make it easy for us to empathize with them. You really do experience the events through them, not just watch, suspended in the air, listening to what they say and watching what they do. So don’t even worry about the characters not being real enough! :-)

One thing I also have to add – I guessed (I took a wild guess, mind you, not basing it on anything) the identity of the Dream Healer. I worried at that stage whether or not I even wanted to finish the book, whether it was even interesting anymore – but I’m so glad I did finish reading it! :-) Trust me, when you reach the final quarter of the book, when all hell starts breaking loose and you can’t put the book down, Shane’s got one more surprise coming that’ll knock your socks off!

…and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a nightmare. Just don’t tell anyone about it. Okay?

To order your copies, click here for US and here for UK. :-)

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