They’re Out to Get Me: Reviewing Paul Dail’s Imaginings

Full disclosure: I am, of course, a big fan of Mr. Dail’s writings on his official website, and we’ve become friends over time. That said, I believe in honest reviews for novels, even those written by friends; they help the writer to better understand the strengths or weaknesses of a given work and what might be targeted to improve a future work. So let’s go ahead and get my only real gripe out of the way first: the ending could have been handled a bit better. Other reviewers have mentioned the repeating ending from two points of view, and I have to echo that sentiment, with a slight caveat. I appreciated the concept behind it, but my problem lie in showing the same events twice. That could have been shortened, and I would have been perfectly happy with the idea itself. As it was, I skipped a couple of paragraphs. Not even enough to ding a star, but worth mentioning.

As for the rest? Fantastic. Every character has an emotional landscape and motivations of his or her own. The involvement of an outer force nicely sidesteps any moments that might feel like the author moving characters along a pre-determined path. This ties into the tension of the story, as you’re sometimes not sure who is committing a certain atrocity. That’s a good thing, as its resolution is central to the plot and especially the climax. 

I wish the pacing would’ve been a little tighter in a few spots, but that’s a personal issue and hardly worth dinging the novel. Objectively, it does a great job of building tension, all the while hitting the reader with little shocks the way that a good horror novel should. Also as in a good horror novel, you never feel that any one character is “safe”, and that does wonders for tension.

I loved the plot. It’s hard to talk about it without giving away major elements, but in brief the protagonist, David, sees his life stripped away by a force that he doesn’t understand. His path intersects with a young woman, and the two characters are soon connected by an afternoon of horror involving her family. We learn more about why the force chose the protagonist (I loved this twist) and how the force continues to tear at David’s life. Mr. Dail manages a plot that could have become convoluted and brings it all around full-circle at the very end, leaving the reader satisfied.

In short, this book deserves a lot more attention than it’s received. I enjoyed seeing some horror ideas that need to come back in vogue; it’s important that even safe characters can be killed – it sets an important tone, that this story is not going to pull the punches in the way that another genre might dictate. I saw a few spots where the writing could have been tightened, but these were minor stylistic quibbles. Overall, I highly recommend it. The scare ride is worth the price of admission.

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On another note, this is my last entry until after Christmas, as I’ll be traveling out of town to visit my family and just won’t have the time to write until next week. I will also be transitioning to a lighter schedule, three days a week (sometimes four). I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that future will look like, but I think my message will be more effective when distilled down to a more reasonable schedule. This also allows me more time to work on my next novel, which of course needs the most attention!

So have a happy and safe Holiday season. See you on the other side.

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5 Comments

  1. Much thanks, my friend. Yes, I need to revisit the ending. We’ll have to talk. I would be curious to know which POV would be more effective in your opinion. To be honest, I added the other POV because I thought the ending felt rushed, but I guess taking another swing at the same scene doesn’t necessarily increase the material, eh? 🙂

    “This ties into the tension of the story, as you’re sometimes not sure who is committing a certain atrocity. “- Glad you got this. That was my intention, but wasn’t sure if it came through.

    We’ll have to take the rest of this conversation off the air. Would love some specifics on areas for tightening (although I think I have an idea).

    Thanks so much. Hope you have a great Christmas.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  2. Hi, Jonathan, Paul. I am impressed that we had both an honest review and a welcome and positive reply. It is, after all, a celebration of the work as well as a quest for improvement.
    Wishing you both Happy Holidays!

    -Jimmy

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  4. Merry Christmas, Jonathan! It’s awesome to see your thoughts on The Imaginings; you are right, it deserves a lot of (positive!) attention. I also agree that if there is some new information presented to a reader by repetition, then the repeat is a valid literary device. It must still be carefully and consciously wielded, but it can be effective (I am trying to think of the name of a short story I read that did this well. I tried to use the technique, and every lit mag in the nation rejected that story b/c … the repetition wasn’t adding enough new information!! 🙂 )

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