Tuesday 16 October 2012

Review: Gary McMahon's In The Skin

The term 'dark fiction' is often used when describing horror, as if the mere presence of something supernatural is enough to make a story 'dark', regardless of whether the tale has any sense of bleakness to justify the phrase.

However, Gary McMahon's In The Skin is unquestionably dark fiction. Unrelentingly so.

It tells of someone not just disconnected from his family and job, but seemingly from reality itself. The central character is a salesman called Dan, who experiences life as if it is taking place on the other side of a screen; as if reality were covered with cellophane he says at one point. As he flies to New York for work and stays in an anonymous hotel room, his world seems like an early Brett Easton Ellis novel by way of a Radiohead song (not sure if its coincidence or not, but the phrase 'fake plastic trees' is used at one point). It takes a good writer to describe this level of detachment without the reader become detached and uncaring themselves, and it's testament to McMahon's prose that this never happens (in fact I read this through in one breathless sitting).

Dan returns home, and the gaps and inconsistencies in his narrative start to pile up. As he notices a strange creature in his garden at night (can it be human?) and small fingerprints on the windows of his house, the reader starts to wonder - just how unreliable is this unreliable narrator?

And then McMahon builds the story to a climax that truly deserves the description 'dark'. This is a short and tightly focussed novella, terrifyingly bleak and infused with a sense of paranoia that makes for a unique experience.


Andrew said...

Seems very interesting.
Check out one of the segmented short stories from my blog site:


Mackylos said...
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