Doorways To The Deadeye: Eric J. Guignard
Reviewed By Aiden Merchant
- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: JournalStone (26 July 2019)
Two-time Stoker winner, Eric J. Guignard, has built his name around writing horror and dark fiction. However, his debut novel is pretty far from horror and closer to fantasy.
The concept behind Doorways to the Deadeye is a great one and therefore lures you in with ease. The early stages of this story build you up for something exciting and interesting, but unfortunately, a lot of it doesn’t pan out. There are several reasons for this, like the historic figures he uses as characters (their manner of speech is not authentic feeling in most cases, and reads oddly as a result), the pacing (there’s a lot of back and forth, and scenes that seem a bit like unnecessary padding), and the faltering conclusion (the final 50-100 pages suddenly read rushed in more ways than one).
Despite its strong start – I was actually quite excited by the synopsis, and loved the idea of learning more about life on the rails – Doorways to the Deadeye does peter out from time to time, and especially at the end. If the dialogue was reworked and the story streamlined, I feel like this book could have been outstanding. In fact, I think it either needed a novella’s length or a grand epic’s length. Trying to write it for the average novel speed left it feeling imbalanced.
I don’t want this to sound like a rant of complaints, so let me point out some of the positives. The idea behind the novel is wonderful, inventive, and unique. There’s a grand love story fueling the whole thing. And there’s a lot of magic for you lovers of fantasy and the supernatural. For example, I especially enjoyed the idea of Luke Thatcher being able to call upon trains like he’s a character from NOS4A2 using a knife to quickly reach new destinations. That was a great nod (if done consciously).
It’s just that Guignard may have had some hardships trimming the novel in its editing process (he notes in the back that this was originally a larger story). It seems like the end got rushed, while scenes building to that finale felt dragged on and a bit muddy. Like I said before, I think this story should have either gone lightly or largely; cutting it down the middle wasn’t in the best interest of doing the concept justice.
Nevertheless, I think there is enough to like here to warrant a recommendation, and to note that Athanasia is a place I would like to see Guignard revisit at another time with a different cast.
Star Rating (out of 5): 3*
Doorways To The Deadeye
Luke Thacker is a drifting hobo in Depression-era America, riding the rails of the nation and surviving by crumbs and hope. Along the way, he learns the iconography of transients–the Hobo Code–better than anyone else, and deciphers a secret that thrusts him into Athanasia, the middle ground of memories.
Here he learns that all around us is the realm of the deadeye, where the deceased persevere by how they are remembered. The memories Luke meets will do anything to never be forgotten, whether by trickery, violence, or daring.
Luke learns, too, that what’s remembered yesterday is not always the same as what will be remembered tomorrow, and he sets off to keep alive the memories of those he loves in the way a ‘bo does best: telling tales of old legends, and making up new ones alike.
Now, fifty years later, the tall crossbucks of Luke Thacker are repeated by homeless King Shaw, who’s struggling to keep Luke’s own legend alive and with it, perhaps, his own.
‘Cause it don’t matter if you rob banks with a dead John Dillinger, are hunted over the years by vengeful Earp brothers, or go against the monstrous railroad guard Smith McCain: when a story is told, all who are part of it become a little stronger.
Aiden Merchant is an independent author, working under various pseudonyms. He writes horror, suspense, drama, science fiction, fantasy, and whatever else fuels him on any given day. He currently has one collection of short stories available (Dead As Soon As Born).
His next story collection, KILL FOR THEM, will release in September. Before 2019 ends, there will also be some Kindle Singles along the way.
Under his real name, Aiden has been a music journalist since 2008, appearing in such international articles as Alternative Press and Outburn Magazine. Though his days of hitting the road for shows and festivals has since passed, music is still a passion of his that taught him how to write in a critical manner. Reviewing stories is still new to him, but he is very much interested in developing a style of his own.
Aiden is a father of one, married, and living in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee (USA). He is originally from further north, as is his wife. He loves to write, read, and explore the outdoors.