I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them. I'm far enough in that I figured continuing to add the titles to this first paragraph would take up too much room.
This week I'm reviewing The Doll Who Ate His Mother, by Ramsey Campbell.
I'm starting to think that the people who made the lists I'm going off of just took the first book of great authors, rather than their best book.
As it is, I'm having trouble deciphering exactly how I feel about this book. It was more of a mystery that a group of people were trying to solve, though there were grisly elements. In the beginning of the book, Clare is driving her brother home when a man runs in front of them on the road. Her brakes are faulty, and she ends up slamming into a light pole. Her brother dies in the accident, and the strange man that ran into the street snatches his detached arm and flees.
The rest of the characters are an author writing about this crime and another he thinks is related, the son of the victim in the related crime, and a random guy who shows up and says the man killed and ate his cat. These characters read very oddly, like a British comedy sitcom. They're unrealistic in some ways. Clare, specifically, has strange mental ramblings and often seems child-like. She makes stupid, irrational decisions. She giggles like a maniac when breaking into a man's apartment, under the assumption that he won't mind if she tidies up.
The setting is colorless, drab. The people they meet lack animation. The villain of the story is rather bland, as well. We see a quick bout of violence from him, but he never builds on this, and it occurs close to the beginning. In fact, I rarely felt like the characters might actually be in danger, even after the big reveal.
Yet it was a quick read for me, showing that Campbell has a certain skill in his language and pacing. I never struggled to read, but I did struggle to care overmuch, especially after a certain point. You see, at first I thought it would continue to escalate, but it really didn't. They merely went on foolish quests for information.
Who would have thought a villain who eats dead things and steals arms would be dull? But he was. There was even a man with evil magical powers who had created a cult of sorts, but he seemed more like a whack job than anything else, and he wasn't frightening either, just nasty.
I'm trying to keep this review shorter than my previous ones, and I honestly lack much to say. I enjoy Campbell's writing, but this book wasn't my favorite. Sometimes his descriptions are fascinating, almost surreal. Sometimes I did a mental double take and had to read what he'd said again to be sure I'd read it correctly. But, as I mentioned above, I did like his use of language.
My new rankings:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
5. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
6. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
7. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
8. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
9. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
10. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
11. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell
12. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
Have you read Ramsey Campbell? This book specifically? What did you think? How would you compare it to his other novels? What do you think of the rankings above? If you've read some of these where would you rank them?
May you find your Muse.