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Item - Bad Dreams

(American cover)
Series: Miscellaneous Works by Kim Newman
Author: Newman, Kim
Date: 1991
ISBN: 0786702273 / 9780786702275 (American edition)
Demian's Thoughts: This is a hard work to describe. It's about a girl fighting a monster, but it's also an alternate history about McCarthyism, a sadomasochistic fantasy and lots more. Kim Newman layers his books like onions, and they're very satisfying to read if you can stomach their grotesque moments (and this book has some very grotesque moments) and wrap your head around all the references to pop culture and literature and history.

This isn't Newman's best work, but it is still a very strong book. If it has a major weakness, it would be in characterization. There are some strong characters on display here, but the protagonist, who should be one of the most important parts of the book, is actually rather bland. I never quite felt that I knew her well enough to cheer her on, which is a shame because if I had identified with her more, the book's conclusion would have worked on an emotional level as well as a cerebral one. This book made my brain very happy, but my heart didn't race as often as it should have. Still, this is an early work, and its flaws can be forgiven on that ground, especially in the face of its numerous successes.

From a gamebook reader's perspective, there are some definite pleasures to be found here. It's a linear narrative, but as in The Quorum, the signs that Newman was already thinking in a non-linear manner are obvious. In one segment of the book, there are two chapter nines and two chapter tens, each showing different possible branches of a segment of the story. In addition to this obvious gamebookism, the book uses some other bits of narrative weirdness and flows in a strange manner that should satisfy readers who like something a little different. As with all of Kim Newman's writing, this is most definitely not for everyone, but if you're one of the people capable of enjoying it, you should enjoy it very much indeed.

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