Book Review: The Fleshless Man by Norman Prentiss

15848313Title: The Fleshless Man
Author: Norman Prentiss
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Publisher: DarkFuse Publications
Publication Date: October 30th, 2012
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Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for honest review.

“The Fleshless Man wants to kill me,” his mother said.
Curtis never enjoyed the cool, oppressive atmosphere of his childhood home, and that atmosphere is even worse when he returns as an adult. His mother is dying, and her illness seems to infect everyone around her: Curtis’s brother has developed a nervous habit that might indicate more serious problems; the attending nurse exhibits puzzling, possibly sinister behavior; and Curtis himself suffers from nightmares and uncharacteristic dark thoughts.
It’s as if the house itself wants his mother to die more quickly—and it will achieve that goal however it can.
Even if it must inspire Curtis to imagine harming his own mother.
Even if it must summon the intervention of a strange entity called the Fleshless Man.

The Fleshless Man is a well written novella, portraying an oppressive atmosphere, bordering on claustrophobic, and an intriguing premise. When Curtis comes home to take care of his mother, whose suffering from terminal illness, he finds not only his mother fighting an illness, but his brother as well. Curtis feels guilty over abandoning his brother for so long, and failing to see the illness that has gotten hold of him. But while he spends his days at home, trying to come to terms with his guilt, he begins having dark, terrifying dreams about murdering his mother, his brother and even his partner. He also has a strange dream about his mother’s nurse telling her a creepy bedtime story about a nightmarish creature called ‘The Fleshless Man’. His mother, delusional from meds or maybe not delusional at all, says she’s afraid the Fleshless Man will kill her.

This book plays well with what is reality and what is not, and in my opinion, it plays this game a little too well. At times, I had trouble figuring out what was really happening, or what was Curtis’ distraught way of dealing with his mother’s illness, or coping with him not being there for his brother. I thought it could’ve been a bit clearer. I like to be left in the dark, but not about everything.

I also didn’t like the nurse’s story about The Fleshless Man. This kind of took away the scariness for me. I think the story could’ve done without, and instead focus more on the present. I don’t need to know the origins of The Fleshless Man, I just need to know why he’s here and what he wants.

The characters were well-described though, and I loved the elegant, lyrical, but sometimes hard and suffocating prose. A nice novella, decently written, but could’ve benefited from a little more explanation.

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