From Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter/producer Matheson's first novel dissects the high-octane Hollywood of network TV with blistering cynicism but ultimately fails to sustain psychological suspense. Writer/producer Alan White finally has a sure-fire hit with his series The Mercenary , a show that takes TV sex and violence to new levels of depravity. But he has also created a monster, unleashing his own dark side in the form of his fictional character, a vicious mercenary named A. E. Barek. As Alan's enemies are brutally murdered one by one, he realizes he must track down and destroy his creation before it consumes its creator. The novel's bitter portrait of Hollywood might have worked as a contemporary morality play, but the narrator's smug, hipper-than-thou tone and contrived humor render Alan himself nearly as unsavory as the soulless media barons he despises. Matheson--whose credits include the short story collection Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks and work on such TV series as Quincy , Magnum PI and Tales from the Crypt --devotes pages to secondary characters (a mysterious psychic, a comely detective) and undeveloped subplots while leaving the bizarre premise of Barek's transition from fiction to reality largely unexplored. It is as though Matheson loaded down a slam-bang screenplay with novelistic "depth," and in the process almost buried it.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From Kirkus Reviews
Horrific satire of Hollywood-based network TV, with the satire more biting than the horror. First-novelist Matheson (Scars, 1987) knows his target: Son of veteran screen/TV-writer Richard Matheson, he's written for Quincy, Hunter, and Magnum PI. Matheson's TV-land is a cruel sea of Armani-suited sharks, few of whom have sharper teeth than writer Alan White, who's come up with the perfect remedy for the networks' rating blues: Give the public the graphic sex and violence they crave. White pitches his concept for The Mercenary--a hardcore gore-porn drama about a human killing machine--to one network, which bites. Months later, The Mercenary is the hottest TV show ever and White is on the A-list everywhere in a Tinseltown painted here in a garish light--a town where most ``actors couldn't've gotten work in claymation'' and a young network hotshot laughs like ``a satanic muppet.'' But then things go wrong--in both Matheson's plotting and White's life--as the novelist draws on a worn Frankenstein variant recently used by Chet Williamson (in Reign) and Stephen King (in The Dark Half): White's fictional creation, the mercenary A.E. Barek, comes to life. It takes several ghastly murders and maimings of those inimical to the series and its antihero (including the blinding of a harsh critic, and a rampage in a biker bar that bears an unhappy resemblance to scenes in the films Terminator II and Near Dark) for White to catch on fully. Weakened by his monster, who's sucking away his creator's life energy in order to solidify his own self, a repentant White confronts Barek in a dragged-out blood-brawl--one with an unexpectedly ironic ending. Matheson's slashing prose and wit draw blood, but his borrowings serve him ill. Still, an unusually clever horror novel. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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