Clockwork Dolls by William Meikle. Book review

clockworkdollsCLOCKWORK DOLLS by William Meikle,

DarkFuse, Kindle, £1.91,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

DarkFuse limited edition (100 copies) hardcovers are now only available through their “Book Club” subscription service, and this one has sold out, so it’s Kindle, or nothing for now. Nook and other electronic versions will be made available fairly soon.

The unknown has always been the basis of most of our primal fears. This, I believe, is why so much modern horror fiction fails to satisfy, or has in many cases mutated into young adult, urban fantasy, supernatural romance, or any combination of the three. There’s nothing wrong with any of these currently popular genres, but some of us occasionally want to read something scary. To a large degree, most of the common monsters of horror fiction have been shackled by over-familiarity. We know how to destroy vampires, werewolves and zombies, so they’ve become more often than not the subject of adventure stories, as opposed to horror stories.

In this excellent novella William Meikle has given us an unnamed menace. The protagonists don’t know enough about it to adequately protect themselves. The lead protagonist is Dave. He’s frankly an arsehole. He’s a bitter, self-pitying drunk, who agrees to take part in a new agey, magical ritual, suggested by Maggie, the hippy/goth type girl who Dave’s friends have invited as a sort of blind date for him. Dave is rude, scornful and just plain obnoxious, but he goes along with it. When bad things start to happen, only Maggie has any idea what’s going on. Whatever is stalking them can be held back for a while, but it’s never going to go away, so the fear is amped up considerably.

The story reminded me in atmosphere of the classic creepy story anthology TV shows of the 60s (most of which were wiped by the TV companies to save tape and will never be seen again). It’s very British in tone. There is evidence, such as armed cops, to place the setting in North America, but despite this, I couldn’t help but hear all the characters with British accents. Oddly, the main American influence I detected was the film version of M.R. James’ ‘The Casting of the Runes’, which was transplanted to the USA as, ‘The Night/Curse’ of the Demon. The story is much the same in the original tale, but it’s the movie that implanted the concept of dark magic, involving things written down on paper that stuck in my mind, as I suspect it did in William Meikle’s.

I started reading the book in the small hours of the morning, intending only to get a quick idea of what it was like, before going to bed. I completely forgot my fatigue. I was hooked! I finished it in one sitting, then dropped off to sleep thinking about what I was going to say in this review.

I had nightmares!