Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Worst Nightmares by Shane Briant

From time to time I really like to read something that will truly scare me. That’s why early Koontz and King are my favorites. I also like it when a horror fiction doesn’t involve supernatural beings but instead is very much grounded in reality because it then makes it so much scarier. As I read these kinds of book, I think that what’s written in there may very well happen or has already happened. Worst Nightmares by Shane Briant is that kind of book.

The main character, Dermot Nolan, is an accomplished, award-winning writer who is also struggling with a writer’s block. He and his wife have pretty much spent the fortune that his previous bestseller earned him and Dermot cannot deliver another smashing work of fiction. Things are looking really gloom for him as his agent and publisher growing impatient and the million-dollar advance is gone without one page to show for it. Only Dermot’s beautiful wife Neela and his best friend Nick know the desperate condition Dermot is in. Therefore, when a mysterious manuscript lands in Dermot’s hands, they all see it as a possible means to end the financial and creative troubles. The manuscript, titled My Worst Nightmares – My Delicious Memoirs, is truly horrifying and gives gory, nightmarish descriptions of each victim’s death based on his/her worst nightmare. The author’s mind is truly sick and twisted but that’s not what’s bothering Dermot and Neela the most. The whole memoir is written in a crude but strangely authentic voice. So authentic that they decide to dig a bit deeper and see if by any chance all those deaths are not imaginative but real. What they discover is at once chilling and inconclusive. Dermot finally decides that the incidences were not real and goes ahead and submits the improved manuscript to the publisher as his own. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
Let me just get what I didn’t like about Worst Nightmares out of the way. I figured out who the murderer was one third of the way. In that sense, it was unfortunately pretty predictable. The most disappointing thing about it was not even that I figured out who it was so soon, but why it happened shortly after (probably half-way through the novel). I don’t know whether it was due to the way the book was written or the fact that I read so many horror/suspense books that it’s very difficult to get a shock reaction from me.

Now that that’s done, let me move on to what I really enjoyed. Mr. Briant is a very skilled writer as far as character development and portrayal go. He managed to put the main character, who we are supposed to sympathize with, as really bad things happen to him, in a very bad light. Maybe I am just a little sick in the head, but I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Dermot deserved what he got in the end. He is a self-absorbed, greedy and egotistic person who at the core will do what it takes to get to the finish line. On the surface he might seem to be struggling emotionally and morally with what he’s about to do, but it’s really all superficial. I have to say that I wasn’t prepared to dislike and not sympathize with the main character so much. That was my element of surprise and I loved it. Besides that main factor, Worst Nightmares is really good. The premise is, in my opinion, fresh and quite shocking. The book starts off fast and the action doesn’t slow down until the end and it’s all written very convincingly. Suffice it to say that, while reading it, I decided that I better not have any worst nightmares (even though I do) that I could tell anyone of just in case…
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Special Thanks to Imran J. for sending me a copy of this book.
Book Info:
Title: Worst Nightmares
Author: Shane Briant
Published in: 2009
By: Vanguard Press