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My return to reading horror novels seems to be sticking, so here's my review of another one

(my first attempt at reviewing the writing of someone I've already met, a task that's scary in its own special way),

which, luckily, I liked.

Like Death is set in Ash Creek, a year after a six-year-old girl named Miranda has disappeared. Scott Raymond moves to the town to investigate and write about the mysterious disappearance, while also trying to repair his marriage and become fully involved in his son's life again. Scott's life has been defined by the murders of nearly his entire family at their vacation cabin when he was nine years old; he can't remember what happened, but his personality has been permanently affected by that day, and the new direction his life took when he moved in with one of the remaining relatives he had left afterward.

The book describes a complicated, layered reality as Scott attempts to discover what happened to Miranda, and meets increasingly disturbing characters who cross back and forth from a state of being called Shadow, a "place" that coexists with the normal reality people perceive, that can't be seen by everyone. Not only does Shadow exist within and around the mundane world, but alternate realities that differ subtly from each other can coexist in the world of Like Death, as well. I was impressed with the complexity of the book, and the way the fragments of possibility fit together in the story.

One thing I must point out is that Like Death has the distinction of containing the very most inventive sex scene I have ever heard of, and please do not take this statement lightly, I beg you! I've seen a Taiwanese Musical Porn film that involved the intimate exploration of watermelons*--in a movie theater, mind you!--and still I say to you that here I found the most inventive sex scene ever!

There were some things that detracted from the experience of reading the book for me; these probably won't apply for everyone. I noticed that I became desensitized to the violence and strangeness in the book after a while, so that they gradually lost their impact. I think my preference would be for smaller doses of graphic description, less frequently, to make those segments stand out in a more shocking way, but that approach might not have worked for this story, or for the more dedicated horror audience.

The other thing was that the ending had a hint of deus ex machina that might have been justified by the development of the world throughout the book, or not--I can't decide. It made me think, so that's good. I can't think of a way I would have resolved the book differently. I liked the book. I'd be interested in discussing that point with other readers, and especially with the author! I would recommend Like Death for horror fans and anyone who likes to question the nature of reality, especially if they like to feel a bit paranoid and fretful about what might really be happening, kind of like after watching The Matrix. :)


*That porn flick would be The Wayward Cloud, in case you're interested, sicko... ;) It was included in a film festival that was on when I went to San Francisco last year. Which was totally why I watched it. For the art. And that is my story, got it?

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