Title: A Face Without a Heart (4th Edition)
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction
Page Count: 200
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”
A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.
A Face Without a Heart is a retelling of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 classic philosophical novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which basically tossed a grenade into the world of Victorian society, who criticized it as being scandalous and immoral and full of homoeroticism.
I picture young Gary Adrion (an anagram of Dorian Gray) as a young Tab Hunter. Reed writes of Gary’s “fine cheekbones and perfect teeth, aquamarine eyes, a cleft in his chin… all these elements that came together to form something more ethereal. His beauty was difficult to describe in a language containing only twenty-six letters.”
But even as we are introduced to the beauty, there is also the dark side. Gary is reading a biography of William Blake, author of Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul when Liam first spots him on the L. Liam thinks: “I suddenly had a presentiment, and the feeling persisted … that of fear, a feeling that this young man held a sort of menace.”
A Face Without a Heart beautifully balances that dichotomy throughout. Is Gary truly innocent, or was evil already there only to be awakened by Henrietta’s comments? Is it nature or nurture? Gary’s “selling of his soul” seems more a careless wish rather than an outright deal or conscious plan. But once it is set into motion, it is Gary’s free will that crafts his life going forward.
As in Oscar Wilde’s time, our society too often measures worth by appearance. We adore the surface rather than the depth. It doesn’t matter if a man is good at heart, but if his face is good. Reed tantalizes us with the thought that Gary can change – that perhaps we as a society can change our preconceptions – but at the end of the day?
And people whine about how change never really lasts when it comes to others, how they always unfortunately revert to their old ways, the ways you don’t want them to be. Anyone who has ever tried to change another knows this to be true. Oh certainly, the change may last a week, a month, even a year. But soon the real person comes back, the one who has been waiting in the wings for just the right cue, the one that will allow him to say “Ah fuck it, I’ve had enough.”
I am a fan of Rick Reed’s romance novels, but please note A Face without a Heart is not a M/M romance novel. It’s an unsparing glimpse into a soul / society that perhaps isn’t that much different from our own. And isn’t that what a good horror story is all about? 5 stars.
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