Doll Face

Doll Face - Tim Curran
Does anybody beyond the age of four, and in their right mind, even like dolls? What about mannequins? Isn't everybody whose name is not Andrew McCarthy at least a little creeped out by them?

I know I am. Just this Christmas gone, my partner and I were discussing how unsettling the doll our 18 month old daughter received from an extended family member was.

"It's kind of ... life like," my partner said.

"I know. And it's eyes seem to follow you wherever you go," I replied.

Even our daughter seemed uneasy with it. After walking around with it for a full 30 seconds, she put the doll at the bottom of her plastic trolley and immediately piled in half a dozen toys on top of it. And there it has stayed.

It's on these fears that Tim Curran plays with his newest novel, Doll Face. A group of friends take an ill-advised short-cut and wind-up in a town that does not feature on any maps. Within minutes they find themselves fleeing for their lives, chased by a number of animated mannequins that demonstrate intelligent thought, and can sometimes even talk. From there, its all about survival and attempting to determine what is going on, but the stakes are high, and this is a Tim Curran book, so you can be certain not everyone is going to make it home - be it in one or many pieces...

Doll Face starts strong. It's at its best in the opening few chapters as the protagonists are confronted by the horrors of the town they find themselves in. There are some incredibly creepy chapters through the first act of the novel, and on several occasions I found myself tensing my shoulders and grimacing at what the characters were being put through. Curran's imagination is his most potent weapon and he again draws from its incredible depths to produce some truly nightmarish scenes.

But the pace does falter, and falter significantly, through the novel's middle stages. The characters eventually get separated so there is very little dialogue through a long sequence of chapters - just description after description of what latest horror is confronting the POV character at that time. And truth be told, it got wearisome simply because there was not enough variation.

Thankfully, for this reader at least, Curran rights the ship and puts things back on track for the final scenes as the full extent of what is happening is revealed and the surviving characters do their best to fight free.

Overall then, fans of Tim Curran are likely to love it; while those who have are new to his work might be better directed to start with something shorter he has written.

Mention should also be made that while Doll Face is mainly about mannequins and their derivatives, it also features spiders. So many spiders. Spiders metaphorically, spiders (semi-)literally, references to things moving like spiders, spiders spiders spiders. So don't read this if you're arachnophobic. You will shit your pants.

4 Spider-Like Creatures Doing Spider-esque Things in the Deepest Dark for Doll Face.