Friday, July 10, 2015

The Doll by Rex Sparger

If you're a regular visitor to the page then it's likely that you've seen my nightstand/lamp on several occasions. Between stashing keys, receipts, toys, mail, and providing a good spot for ebay and blog photos along with lighting, the lil beast serves as a fine definition of multifunctionality, which my word processor tells me isn't a real thing. Anyway; something you probably haven't seen is the bottom section which is a metal barred basket which stores a heaping helping of books I nab from library sales, thrift stores, etc. In essence it's book jail, If a member of book jail's population proves worthy, they may join the shelf. Today's inmate is not so lucky. Now this isn't the crazy book I mentioned a few posts back as that review requires a little more work.

The Doll is something I picked up from a local thrift store solely on the merit of it's cover art. Yes I've heard the sayings about books and covers. I'm shallow, deal with it. I was also a little intrigued by the Dark Forces logo along the top. A wee bit of study revealed these as an 80's horror series for teens much like Fear Street or the more popular and younger geared Goosebumps. Further queries led me to think there might have been an extra motive in this series to serve as a sort of Christian scare tactic. Now I have no proof of this mind you, but as I looked up more entries in the franchise, I came across bits about kids selling their souls to become rock stars, or table top gamers sacrificing animals, that sort of thing. Also; there were repeated mentions of pastors or ministers trying to save kids from such folly. Normally I might be driven off by such tidbits but the book was short enough and my curiosity over how Christy it could get was high enough that I decided to dive in.

We kick things off by meeting our heroine, Cassie. She's.......well....she's not really much of anything actually. I mean personality isn't exactly her strong suite. She's pretty, nice, collects dolls, and her mom's dead (a fact that oddly doesn't effect her very much). Within the first few pages she gets a call from her boyfriend, Jack. He's a responsible, superbuff, football playing cowboy. And that's a good thing case a girl like Cassie wouldn't been seen with one of those lazy soccer playing townies! Our kids are working on a somewhat long distance relationship as they live like 90 miles from each other. This week is different though. It's county fair time and everyone's spending the whole week their. Cassie has her prize winning doll collection to show off, her dad is a fair judge, and Jack & his lil brother Nate have a horse entered in competition, Before long, everyone's settled in at the fair and our couple manage to meet a friendly fortune teller. Wonder if she'll factor into the story later.

As the kids wander around the fair, Cassie spots a doll (cue creepy music) she must have for her collection. Sure enough, Jack wins it for her the next day by playing a perfect game of...what's the one where you pop balloons with darts? Anywho, Jack continues to be all that is man though he's concerned as he believes Cassie tossed a dart into the guy ahead of them to thwart his attempt at winning the same prize. There's no time for worries though as they have to watch his little brother perform in the horse show. Apparently the kids trained the best damn herding horse the world has ever known, earns himself a standing ovation even. That's when things turn south.

What fallows for the next however many chapters is a cluster of accidents. The prize winning horse is spooked by the doll and breaks its leg which earns it a shot to the head. Cassie gains a personality, albeit an awfully combative one. Fires are set, innocent doll collections are destroyed. Oh, and did I mention the doll starts to grow and become more organic? Once it starts to kill nearby plant life and set Jack on fire, he finally decides to do something about it with the aid of our aforementioned fortune teller, Maria.

Now it's time for our journey into Christianity. You see, Maria was brought up by her adoptive father who is in fact a minister who's battled Satan multiple times over the years. She takes the kids to his church. Now I was hoping for some drama here as I imagined that Maria's career as a mystic would clash with her upbringing and lead to disapproval from her dad. Nothing of the sort happens however as we're told that she can deal with the mystical arts without worry because she's a good Christian......huh? What transpires next is a graveyard battle with the possessed doll and Satan (who summons up a tornado by the way) while Cassie sings Jesus Loves me over and over again.

When all is said and done, the old man dies from the strain of fighting the devil for the third time in his life and the kids return to the fair to continue dating. Is this a happy ending? Maybe if you're really into getting teenagers to stop collecting toys and start going to church.

As you can probably tell I'm not a huge fan of this book. It's not horribly written or anything, and the religious stuff isn't too problematic. If I were a kid (not a teen) it woulda had a good chance of scaring me even. The problem is all the wasted potential. You've got a sound concept of a life-sucking devil doll terrorizing kids at a county fair. There's a lot you could do with just those elements. Not to mention the potential drama I proposed for Maria and her father. Even side characters like Jack's younger brother fail to serve much purpose as he goes home after his horse dies. I was teased with the idea of a week at the fair with an evil toy come to life. What I got was two days of escalating incidents and a trip to church.

While my better judgment tells me to advise you against picking up a Dark Force book, I still say give it a go if you come across one. Seeing as they're written by different authors there's a chance you might stumble upon a decent read. If not, you could donate it to a priest who's trying to convince kids that hobbies are the devil's work.  

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