Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”
A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.
Let me start off by saying that one, I think the synopsis didn’t quite get it right. I don’t feel that A Face without a Heart is a retelling of that fabulous and horrific Oscar Wilde tale, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is rather a modern day ode to Wilde by Reed. The author takes Wilde’s story of a beautiful man who bargains away his soul rather than see himself as anything less than the perfect image he sees displayed before him and gives it a Rick R Reed, hmmm, not twist perhaps but something similar enough as though the demon who visited Dorian came back and said, ‘here’s another likely candidate. Let’s choose him.’ And did.
If you’re not familiar with Oscar Wilde, or his story, The Picture of Dorian Gray, drop everything and go read everything you can by this man, including that one. First published in 1890 to great consternation and uproar, it holds up to this day, where its in release still. If you’re not and are looking for a romance, stop! There’s not one to be found here unless its one man’s love for his own reflection at the cost of his soul. To keep that beauty intact, there’s nothing he won’t do, keep that in mind.
So no to the romance. Yes to the horror.
Yes to the slow disintegration of a man and the appearances of what a life ill-used in every possible manner can look like on a painting (Oscar Wilde) or in this case a holographic portrait which was a very neat upgrade I must say by Rick R. Reed. From the moment Liam Howard, photographer and artist, sees the incandescent beauty of Gary Adrion, he wants him to pose for his holographic portrait. Gary’s an innocent. Until he see’s himself unveiled in all his perfection. The author chillingly carries us from moment to moment, in each character’s involvement with each other as they head towards this shattering unveiling that will shift all their lives forever and past to all its damning ramifications. There’s multiple pov here which works very well. We know what’s coming and still its effect is immediate and alive. And we know Gary’s innocence has fled.
What follows is every bit as horrific and condemning of the ideas of eternal youth/beauty and lives lived empty of morality or worth to anyone but yourself as Oscar Wilde held forth in 1890. Still true today? You make up your own mind. I think Rick R. Reed has done a splendid job. I highly recommend this story if you are a lover of horror and a well written tale.
Cover art by Aaron Anderson. I understand what the artist was trying to do but I think it ended up looking more like a press run gone bad instead of a holographic image he was going for.
ebook, 4th Edition, 200 pages
Expected publication: January 31st 2017 by DSP Publications (first published January 25th 2000)
Original Title A Face Without a Heart: A Modern-Day Version of Oscar Wilde’s the Picture of Dorian Gray
ISBN 163533263X (ISBN13: 9781635332636)
Edition Language English
Literary Awards Gaylactic Spectrum Award Nominee for Best Novel (2001)
First Edition paperback published by Design Image Group, 2000.
Second Edition paperback published by iUniverse/Back in Print, 2006.
First Edition eBook published by Bristlecone Press, 2009