Review: A Face Without a Heart by Rick R. Reed

4th Edition

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.

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

I have to admit that I’ve never read The Picture of Dorian Grey but I know the basics of the story, and of course he features in Penny Dreadful so I’m aware of the character.

That being said, I really fell into this adaptation and found it intriguing, poetic, and fantastical. I am actually pleased I read this contemporary adaptation before taking the plunge into the literary classic.

This story is told from multiple points of view but clearly shows the story of Gary and his journey from barely legal drifter from a wealthy family to tortured immortal. The contemporary setting made this relatable, and interesting. The hologram had my wheels turning and was completely different to any artist point of view I’ve read before. I was actually enamoured by the description of the artwork and the showing. Mr Reed really sold me on the realism of it.

I have a hard time with recreational drug use so this dimmed my enjoyment somewhat, even though I understood the reason behind it. Addiction is a sore point for me in real life, so it’s not surprising the casualness of it in the beginning turned my stomach. That being said, I appreciated that the grittiness of long term use was clearly shown, and not glamorised in any way. This made it darker for me (and maybe other readers without my issues will feel the same), and gave a depth to the type of destructive lifestyle Gary was leading.

This story is rich in layers, and walked a clear line from beginning to end. I felt connected to all the characters as well as the lead. I appreciated the witty touches of Henrietta and the reverence of Liam the artist.

I had some issues with the beginning, with Gary’s first love, and I’m trying to ignore them as I write this. It was odd to me, and seemed out of place with the rest of the story. I get why it is there, but it didn’t fit for me. As the story progressed I tried to ignore it was even in there.

Overall I think this was a great story. It’s on the grey side of dark *wink* and enjoyable in an atypical way. Mr Reed always gets me with the interpersonal relationships and the creepy descriptives. Wonderful showing as always.

I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys the original, the movie adaptation and Rick R. Reed’s other horror/thriller work.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest opinion

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