Scream is the story of Mark Stone, hard working everyman who just happens to have messed up his marriage and started hearing Hell on his telephone. It’s the story of his efforts to solve the mystery of the screams, which bring him into regular contact with the local police, and with probably the least stereotypical Pastor in all of Christian fiction. The guy has tattoos, people!
It is also the story of the faceless psycho known only as Judge, whose hobby of stalking and kidnapping innocent women and keeping them in a barn leads his plot inexorably towards Mark’s.
Aside from the wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth that keeps interrupting Mark’s phone calls, there’s not a lot of what I would call ‘horror’ in the story, and in fact I was more on edge for the ‘real life’ issues – the traumatic childhood incident that birthed Judge, and Mark’s marital disaster. Those things were both relatable, and written in way that highlighted their relevance and drove the point home.
There was enough suspense in the story to keep me wanting more, and although the twists were not all entirely surprising, I found them satisfying.
Part of me wants to say that Scream would work perfectly well as a straight thriller without the supernatural screaming, but the screams do serve the purposes of pulling the various plot strands together, and of reminding the reader, as they reminded Mark Stone, that death – and Hell – can come calling at any moment, and what happens to us then is something we can change – have to change – before that moment arrives. The problem is that’s all they do… I realise explaining them inexplicable would be daft, but I feel a little short-changed, I wanted more from the Scream!
Despite having an obvious message, Mike Dellosso manages to avoid being ‘preachy’, or leaving the reader with nothing more than a hellfire and brimstone message. The message is delivered as a natural part of the story (and, in case you didn’t get it from the story, helpfully recapped in an afterword by the author), and along the way the reader is presented with some interesting comparisons: our hero, ostensibly a ‘good’ person, has utterly broken his wife’s heart, while the apparently ‘evil’ Judge shows moments of human kindness towards his captives; more importantly, he presents a very real and challenging comparison between empty religion and a genuine knowledge of Jesus.
So to summarise: an important gospel message, nicely presented in a cracking story.
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