January 14, 2013

Rabid Reads: "Clockwork Dolls" by William Meikle

Clockwork Dolls
DarkFuse (2013)

Do you remember how a few years back the new age gurus were hyping the bejesus out of The Secret? I had never paid much attention to all that stuff before, and it quite took me by surprise just how many people did. That "law of attraction" bunk seems utterly laughable to me, and yet there are people I've known since I was a little kid--people I took for granted to be of sound mind--who gobble it up like ice-cream. So, I found instant sympathy for the main character, Dave Burns, a man who calls B.S. on a woman who openly subscribes to that nonsense.

The story starts with Dave in an interrogation room with a detective grilling him about the deaths of his best friends. It's not explained outright how they died, but it's pretty clear that Dave is the prime suspect and the story he recounts is not going to sway anyone. Dave's story starts with meeting Maggie, a woman invited to dinner by Dave's ex, Jane. Dave is still carrying a torch for Jane, but keeps it unspoken for the sake of his friendship with Jane and Jim, the friend he feels stole her from him. To bury his feelings, Dave drinks ... a lot. It's during one of his all-too-common drunken episodes that Maggie gives him a crash course in how the universe works, including that "law of attraction" stuff where you just have to wish the right way to get what you want in life. She coerces him and everyone at the dinner table to write one thing they truly want, put it in an envelope, and mail it out to the universe. What Dave writes winds up inciting a series of events that put his and everyone else's life in danger.

The relationships between Dave and his friends, and even Maggie, feel at once organic and befuddling. I think it is the enabling atmosphere they afford Dave as he continually drinks himself silly until he irritates everyone around him, even to the point of provoking violent reactions--he gets knocked on his butt more than once by these drinking buddies of his. Still, the history of these relationships feels real and helps carry the suspense through the story, as the wavy-gravy laws of the universe turn against them.

And the embodiment of Dave's deepest desire, as the universe apparently exerts itself on him and his friends, is something that doesn't become properly articulated until the very end with the big revelation. For supernatural bogeymen, it's a pretty good one that provides plenty of chills.

I've got a couple of Meikle's books on my to-be-read pile and this was the first one I picked up. I'm glad I did. It's a novella that takes a piece of metaphysics and turns it into a monster. Keep your Secret, gurus. William Meikle has the cure for what ails me.

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