Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

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Night of the Mannequins is a descent into madness at the hand of a masterful and unique storyteller.

Straight off the bat I have to say that Night of the Mannequins is nothing like I expected it to be. The cover illustration, the B-Movie font, even the title of the book all allude to something else… something pulpy and harkening back to the good old days of things like The Blob and The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I can’t help it that’s what the book and the premise conjured up in my mind, I was thinking a possible zombie horde of mannequins escaping and laying waste to a town; a town that was being ravaged by killer mannequins as Starship played ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’; or there was I don’t know like a 50 foot mannequin laying waste to a whole town, or state or country – the army rolling in to help clear up this unfortunate mess.

You see I went into this knowing absolutely nothing.

I hadn’t read any reviews, I didn’t read the blurb on the back of the book and I avoided any review on Youtube about Night of the Mannequins – I purchased this book solely on the back of reading and really enjoying ‘The Only Good Indians‘ which at the time was the first Stephen Graham Jones book I’d read (you see if I’m impressed with an authors work, I’m always going to go out and get another book, then another and before you know it, like Gremlins they’ve multiplied and I need a bigger bookcase!). And that was the case here – I picked this up because it was a newish book of his and I wanted to carry on discovering this quite remarkable raconteur.

‘So Shanna got a new job at the movie theater, we thought we’d play a fun prank on her, and now most of us are dead, and I’m really starting to feel kind of guilty about it all.’

The above quote is the opening to the book, and as you can see Jones isn’t messing about. He doesn’t want us getting too comfortable here, what he wants is us running, panting, second guessing, seeing things we don’t believe are there, but could quite possibly be staring us right in the face. Jones masterfully steers us into a frenzy of fear and anxiety – and that’s pretty the tone of the book, right up until the bitter end!

Sawyer is our main protagonist and our other secondary characters are his friends since childhood; but as the years have gone by, some have come and gone, some still cling to those fun memories of building forts and doing pranks and getting into trouble like little kids do. But one thing they’ve forgotten about, until now, is the mannequin that they found in the woods ‘Manny’ who they used to play with every chance they got, who they used to dress up and leave in ridiculous places to scare those in the neighbourhood. How could they have forgotten the one thing that brought them so much joy, so much fun and so much camaraderie, they’d seemed to have just forgotten that he ever existed. That is until now! The idea comes to Sawyer to play one last prank on his friend Shanna and decides to dust off their old friend, their old running buddy Manny – for the prank to end all pranks.

What I loved about Night of the Mannequins is the way that Jones writes teenage angst – he seems to siphon the very best of Stephen King (someone who in my opinion writes teenage characters masterfully) and makes his characters sing on the page, creating fully realised characters who help take the story forwards making you feel for each and everyone of their differing plights.

I feel that the voice of the narrator (Sawyer) and the format in which the book is told (first person, almost diary format) is one of the key elements to me enjoying this book as much as I did. It’s something that’s not done too ofter or well for that matter with longer fiction, so when you see it done like this, it’s literal gold dust!

We follow Sawyer as his life falls apart one friend at a time, and we watch and read first hand of his descent into madness, his uncontrollable decline into the very depths of his soul, and what he finds residing there will shock him and have us standing back in wide-eyed appreciation for what Jones has been able to accomplish!

Night of the Mannequins is nothing like I was expecting to find, there were no hordes of mannequins roaming the streets in search of sustenance, or 50 foot crazy Godzilla like destruction – instead Night of the Mannequins was better than anything my crazy brain could have expected or imagined! Instead of a B-Movie pulp horror, we get a blockbuster of a book that is both unique and intelligently written – showing us that the most terrifying things we can imagine are quite possibly lurking deep within ourselves!

Night of the Mannequins is published by Tor.com and is available here.

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen and a half novels, six story collections, a couple of standalone novellas, and a couple of one-shot comic books. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels, and is the guy who wrote Mongrels. Next up are The Only Good Indians (Saga) and Night of the Mannequins (Tor.com). Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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