by Josh Malerman
Hardcover, 384 pages
Fear State: Perfection (4/5)
Oh, love. The horror of love. And the horror of betrayal that you never saw coming. Take a moment to reflect on times when you opened your heart and mind to someone. You shared your hopes, dreams, secrets and in doing so made yourself completely vulnerable to that person. That’s scary right? Some will say you have to trust that things will work out and this person will be “the one”. You’ll never truly know until years or if your lucky decades have passed and all went well. You and “the one” haven’t killed each other in a fit of rage over the toilet seat being left up or nagging about too much golfing. You don’t really know until you know and by then time has gotten to the both of you. Or something goes dreadfully wrong and the person you loved reveals their true intentions. This story took the premise of Sleeping Beauty, wrapped tenticles around and strangled it.
The latter is what happened to poor Carol Evers. This character suffers from a rare condition that sends this lovely woman into comas that to many makes her appear dead. The comas can happen quickly and suddenly. This sort of condition makes her vulnerable to those around her. She spends most of her time worried about who she can trust with her condition. Many either don’t know how to respond or handle it altogether. Shortly after the passing of a dear friend Carol passes out into one of her spells. After dealing with the condition for many years she refers to the place she drifts in during her coma Howltown. The most disturbing this is while in Howltown Carol is still aware of her surroundings in reality. She can hear everything and feel her body being handled or moved. She finds out that the person she loves the most can’t be trusted. Once the betrayal gets back to her former lover James Moxie he plans to rescue her. To keep this from happening a villain named Smoke is hired to kill James Moxie before he can intercede on Carol’s behalf.
What I loved most about this novel was Smoke. He breathed, moved and swayed into this novel with such sinister intentions. Nothing is more disturbing than a man that wants to watch the world burn. Malerman has a way of handling the suspense and the horror of Smoke’s rage and motivations unlike any other author I’ve read in a very long time. Reading Smoke’s character was intoxicating to me. I’m nearly always rooting for the villain. If ever I could plant a thought deep enough in someone I would bury the seed in Josh Malerman’s brain to give a sequel with Smoke as the central character. A back story of sorts. That’s the world I one day want to live in…where that story exists. The host of other characters was amazing and the story unfolding in only a way Malerman could deliver. I’ll even admit while some didn’t altogether love the ending I was sold. Malerman is becoming one of those “he can’t do any wrong writers” in my book.