Kindle Edition, 216 pages
Published January 8th, 2016 by Matthew Mugridge
It’s been awhile since I read a true horror story. I loved the genre when I was a teenager and watched tons of horror movies during that same time period. Reading this book took me back to those days.
“Blank Fear is a visionary and masterfully surreal adult psychological horror novel, and one which boasts a groundbreaking multiple ending based on the reader’s decision midway.
For some of us, going insane is out of the question; but nineteen-year-old Debbie Nightingale hasn’t even begun to ask for trouble before her world turns upside down.
She has just rented out her first flat; she is studying hard at college, whilst repaying the subsidy towards her father’s loan with part-time evening work washing-up dishes. So why has she started receiving intimidating crank calls when on answering contain only the wordless threats of continuous breathing?
Except one evening, the person whom she has dubbed as the Mystery Man; finally speaks – and Debbie soon collapses within minutes of the conversation. When she wakes up, she finds she is in a psychiatric hospital. After stating no recall of events, she is regretfully informed that she had murdered her father. Debbie struggles as she searches for her own truth, and finds she may have to battle her own personal demons from her past. Is she being set-up, or has she simply forgotten her heinous crime?
This is difficult when all you can remember is blank fear.”
The story kicks off with some heavily creepy action right away. Which felt a bit disappointing at first because I like it when characters are introduced properly. Then again, when a movie or TV series episode starts off with an action scene without any further explanation, I love it.
Luckily, in this book, we get to know Debbie a little better due to the use of flashbacks later on. In the end, I still don’t feel like I really know her, though. I think this is mostly because of her nondescriptive Captain Obvious dialogues. Debbie wakes up in an unknown town: “Where am I? It seems like I’ve woken up in an unknown town”. Debbie is outraged at something happening to her: “Why is this happening? I’m so outraged about it!”. These aren’t actual quotes, by the way, just a general description of what I came across.
Which brings me to a crucial point right away: this book needs some heavy editing. It’s not like it’s full of typos per se, it’s more a choice of words which makes the story flow less naturally. Examples are the consecutive use of ‘she’ at the start of a sentence, redundant brackets, and sentences like “But she knew it was theoretically impossible, in theory“. …”…and they were also diamond tipped too“.
Then there’s a case of meandering tense, which sometimes made me have to read things over and over again just to make sense of them.
Now, since I’m not a beta reader and it would be excruciatingly boring for you guys to read about it, I’ll just leave it with that when it comes to the editing part.
What kind of horror should you expect, you might wonder? If you’ve ever seen any of the Silent Hill movies or possibly even played the video game series, that’s kind of what you can expect: survival horror in a surreal setting with lots of gruesome shit. There were also scenes which reminded me of American Horror Story, particularly the Asylum season. A creepy mental institution incorporating lots of psychological and physical horror is what you will find in Blank Fear as well.
The main question in this story that kept me going was: which one is the real reality? Is Debbie dreaming the whole time? Did she really die and/or end up in a hellish otherworld? Or is she just batshit crazy?
In spite of all the flaws in this book, I went from 8 to 100% within just one day because of this. The end result is partially up to yourself, which I thought was a nice bonus, even though I wasn’t sure of when I was supposed to make the decision on which course to take. So if you’re expecting some sort of ‘Create Your Own Adventure’ book, it isn’t; you can only choose between two alternate endings.
There’s a mixed quality when it comes to the characters, some of them were stereotypically bad, others were awesome. As I mentioned before, the protagonist of the story, Debbie, was quite bland. I know she has some perky breasts under that nightshirt of hers and that she’s basically half naked during the entire book. I don’t know if this was done intentionally, looking at scream queens from the ’70’s/’80’s horror flicks, but I would’ve really liked it if Debbie had a little more depth to her.
A character that certainly stood out for me was Dolbert, a ventriloquist who lives through his creepy wooden puppet, Stan. I’d love to watch something with those ‘two’ in it. Yes, I said watch. Apart from the long poetic letters Debbie keeps finding on her travels through the town of hellspawn, the rest of the book reads like it should’ve been a movie script more than a novel. The detailed descriptions, sometimes added in brackets, reminded me more of cues for an actor than cues to a reader.
Even though this book really needs to undergo the aforementioned editing, I ended up giving it 3 brownies. One reason for that is that I went through it like a hot knife through butter. The other reason is that it brought me back to my teen years. There were some pretty bad books/movies I really enjoyed back then, just because things don’t always have to be outstanding to be appreciated. One of my all-time favourite movies is Poltergeist II, which is pretty darn crappy, yet I can watch it over and over again.
Blank Fear does something similar to me right now, but could/should be fixed into something more enjoyable for a larger audience.
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