Book Review: Doll Face by Tim Curran

24486813Title: Doll Face
Author: Tim Curran
Genre: Dark Fiction, Horror
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 2 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Six friends are returning home from a night out when they end up in a town called Stokes. They discover they are trapped there, as Stokes does not really exist. The actual town had burned to the ground more than fifty years ago. The Stokes they are in is a nightmare version of the former town, engineered by a deranged and undead mind, a supernatural machine of wrath that will destroy them one by one….unless they submit to its dominance and become living dolls.

In Doll Face, after going out one night, six friends return home and when one of them decides to take a shortcut, they end up in a town called Stokes. The driver, Chazz, accidentally runs someone over, and an argument ensues – will they drive forward, or will they stop to help? Eventually they get out of the car, and check how the man is doing – except, he’s not a man at all. He’s not human, but a mannequin, a doll that walked just seconds ago. They call an ambulance, but the operator says no town named Stokes even exist. Or well, it existed, but completely burned down in the 1960s. Soon, the six of them realize they’re trapped in a grotesque version of 1960s Stokes, a village inhabited by dolls and mannequins, and the Spider-Moth, a despicable creature with hundreds of doll legs and faces that chases them through town. All of it seems centured around the factory just out of town, but will they ever reach it? With Stokes turning into a maze, and each road leading to the same road, and while being chased by murderous dolls, not all of them might make it out alive.

So, the premise for this book, is you just read my summary above, is amazing, right? Well, it certainly sounded amazing to me. Abandoned town? Check. Creepy dolls? Check. I was thinking this would be like Silent Hill, but with creepy dolls rather than Pyramid Head. And the book did start out with a bang. We’re introduced to our group of six. The cast isn’t that diverse – they all seem like they’re losers or at least regard themselves that way. But we’ve got Chazz, who is a controlling idiot, and who always wants to be in charge, yet doesn’t know how to take responsibility. Then we’ve got Ramona, Chazz’s girlfriend. Although she might have what it takes to be the brave heroine this book so desperately needs, she has one major character flaw: she’s too self-critical, always blaming herself for what the men she loves do wrong. If Chazz acts rude toward her, it must be her fault somehow. If he cheats on her, she must’ve done something wrong. She does gradually shed this part of her as the book progresses, but it’s hard to like a character who is that self-critical.

Next up, we’ve got Lex and So-Lee. They’re the first ones who felt the weird vibes of Stokes, and the first to break through an illusion, but apart from that, the reader doesn’t know much about them – who were they before they ended up in Stokes? What did they do? – and it’s hard to connect with them. We’ve also got Danielle, who is so shallow and useless she doesn’t even get a POV, so connecting with her is next to impossible. And then there’s Creep, who has moments when a reader might feel sympathetic toward him. He’s a loser too, or at least sees himself that way, and he’s not very brave, but he comes across as the most realistic of all the characters, and sometimes, I sympathized with him. Not a lot though.

The trouble with this book, first and foremost, is the lack of sympathy one feels to the characters. They all seemed like the different shades of the same color. All slightly different, yet at their core, remarkably the same. Ramona and Creep at least had some moments where the reader could connect with them, the other characters didn’t. As such, I didn’t much care what happened to any of the characters.

The writing is haunting and atmospheric, and the image of the Spider-Mother won’t leave my mind soon. But the writing is also repetitive. The characters split up, and each of them faces off against a different cast of mannequin dolls – but still, each scene plays out the same way. Characters runs into monster, then runs away from it, and narrowly manages to escape. Repeat. It’s boring and gets repetitive, and this book could’ve easily been turned into a novella if some of the repetitive scenes got axed.

Now, the good parts of the book, becaause it has a few. As I said, the writing is good, and the descriptions are pure gold. The atmosphere is creepy, and the town of Stokes feels very claustrophobic. But because the creep-factor rises to the highest level almost right away, the suspense dies out quickly. If it had more build up, the book might’ve been better, but it was as if all monsters got unleashed all at once, and rather than terror rising, it just stays at the same level throughout. But because we grow accustomed to this level, the suspense dies out. Toward the end, I had to force myself to continue reading.

Doll Face isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t call it good either. The concept and premise are great, and the writing works too. It’s just that it’s too long, too repetitive, and none of the characters are easy to sympathize with. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but other horror fans might enjoy it.


  1. Hey Majanka, it looks like we had very similar thoughts about this book… and identical rating…

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