Written by: Matt Molgaard
Sometimes I really, really hate my “no spoiler” policy. There are some novels that just need to be thoroughly discussed and evaluated, and unfortunately I can’t bring myself to shed too much light on novels that need be read, not read about. In regards to Justin Robinson’s “The Dollmaker”, such is certainly the case. This is a far out, imaginative piece of fiction that will undoubtedly fiddle with nerves and leave readers disturbed, disgusted and strangely addicted. The Dollmaker is really an animal all its own (that I could certainly see earning cinematic transfer), plain and simple.
A tale of extreme obsession, The Dollmaker drops Stephen Monaghan – brilliant chemist and masterful sculptor – right in the forefront of an often nauseating tale of troubled love, sinister creation and a double life no man could ever possibly juggle. Amazingly, these conflicting elements work like a charm and conjoin in clearly cohesive fashion to create a piece of fiction that leaps from traditional boundaries right into the psyche of anyone to touch this novel. It’s disturbing to put it mildly, but The Dollmaker is an addictive drug that calls out to the inner monster in all of us. Just one more hit, I need it!
You see, the story’s primary player Stephen’s not exactly a suave gent with a penchant for wowing the ladies. So, what’s a genius mind to do (you’d think a man with this level of intelligence could work life’s troubles out with relative ease) in such a case? Feed a strangely incestuous compulsion and a weight of loneliness by creating dolls that actually…live (to an extent) and willingly proffer themselves physically, that’s what. There’s so much more to tell of this story, which I believe will touch a serious soft spot in the shy and reserved horror fan, but I will not tarnish a compelling read. If you want to know what fate awaits Stephen, you’re going to have to pick this book up. But I assure you: there are numerous surprises in store, many of which are going to make you squirm as you work your way through the demented tale.
Robinson’s prose is rather unorthodox, and while I initially found myself having issues working through each page, his unique brand of storytelling really began to grow on me. Sometimes it’s nice to find something legitimately different, and Justin definitely delivers the goods: The Dollmaker serves as a quirky read that slowly ensnares and ultimately baffles. Snatch yourself a copy and you’ll identify with my assessment, because as Stephen steadily digs himself a hole that seems far too deep to ever escape, I found myself insanely curious and completely dedicated to his personal obstacles. How the hell does a man – seemingly so normal – dive into the depths of morbid fixation? Why is he so incapable of righting his wrongs, and why can he not see (immediately) the strengths of his own character? Why must he resort to the extremely outlandish to find satiation? Better yet, where will that extreme outlandishness lead him, ultimately?
Justin’s writing style, which really does feel all his own, may not please every reader. As I’ve noted, this is what I would brand a “new approach” to the gruesome narrative, but any pitfalls the critical mind may find in his writing flair will likely be overshadowed by what stands as an original (and pretty damn cool) concept. While many great works of fiction utilize a single conflict as a pivotal crutch, Justin stacks conflict upon conflict upon conflict, and the higher the shit-pile grows, the more mystified the reader becomes, at least in my case. Furthermore, the man has a wonderful way with character development: characters are clearly fleshed out and gifted their own stylized personalities without inundating readers with 25,000 words outlining their history. That’s a quality I personally gravitated to immediately. I’m not going to hit the wall balls first and tell you this is a surefire winner (for some it simply won’t be), but I am going to tell you that if you’re craving a tale that strays from today’s norm, The Dollmaker fits the bill.
The story starts fairly strong, and the climax is more than deserving of the title “rewarding”. I’d recommend you be brave and experiment with a new brand of horror, as The Dollmaker left my noggin blown in more than a single instance. Unfortunately now, at 31 I’ve suddenly taken on a fear of dolls. Damn you Justin!