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A Face Without A Heart: A Modern-day Version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray Paperback – July 23, 2006
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About the Author
Rick R. Reed is the author of the novels Obsessed, Penance, and In the Blood. His short story collection, Twisted: Tales of Obsession and Terror was published in 2006. He lives in Chicago.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first thing I realised while reading was that it has been too long since I read Oscar Wilde’s book. While everything I felt while reading that book was still firmly fixed in my memory, the story’s details had mostly faded. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good thing. For starters it means that I can’t tell you how close A Face Without a Heart stays to the original story. Having said that, I know I read this book with the same mixture of horror and fascination as I did the Wilde book.
Now, before I say anything else I want to say this: A Face Without a Heart is not a romance; it doesn’t resemble a love story. This is a tale about sin, debauchery, sex, drugs, and lack of morals and what such a lifestyle does to a man.
Gary Adrion’s (clever play on a name) story had me hooked from the opening paragraph. There’s never any doubt that Gary is evil. Even before they exchange a single word Liam Howard, is scared of the man he’s followed off the train. His instinct tells him to get away, his compulsion forces him to keep on following the beautiful young man and even to invite him to model for one of his holograms.
I’m not going to go into the details of the story. Those who have read The Picture of Dorian Gray will know what to expect and those who are new to the story should be allowed to enjoy it in all its horrifying glory. I do want to say that the story hooked me from the beginning. Once I’d started I couldn’t put the book down until I had read all the way to the end, mesmerised by Gary Adrion’s brutal selfishness and yet unable to thoroughly dislike him.
In fact, that’s what I admired most in this book; the gradual decline of Gary’s character and morals and the fact that even in his darkest moments he can’t escape his conscience completely. I should have detested him more or less from the start but found that impossible. It takes true talent to write a monster and still make the reader invested in the character. By the time I finished the book I wasn’t sure whether it had been the author’s skill or my own lack of morals that made me feel a tiny bit sorry for Gary. I still haven’t worked that one out, but I prefer to blame Rick R. Reed.
My advice to other readers is as follows: If you want to read about love and happy endings, please look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you are not afraid of the dark and you like a story that will mesmerize, shock, horrify, and fascinate, you, A Face Without a Heart is the perfect read for you.
Well, over the years Gary gets pretty dark, and awfully depraved. Egged on by Liam's dear friend, an outgoing drag queen known as Henrietta, Gary's life takes some disastrous turns. He thinks he finds love, and throws it away on a whim--which leads to deadly results. Liam acts as Gary's conscience, taking him to task when Gary will let him near, and that's not a good situation, either. The further down this rabbit hole Gary falls, the more his hologram absorbs the horror of his actions, turning from an objet d'arte into a grotesque. Meanwhile Gary never seems to age a day. Friends turn bitter and enmity is rampant, even among his hangers-on. Gary delights in beauty, and it's ultimate corruption.
This isn't a romance, which I knew going in. There is some sex, but it's written for shock value and the effect is chilling, not amorous. As we know from the Oscar Wilde classic, Dorian Gray--our narcissistic Gary--never fully redeems his soul, despite knowing that he must if he's ever to find peace from the ghosts of people that have died as a result of his actions--directly or indirectly. There's lots of drug use, and a seedy club-kid-type vibe for some of the book, and there's horror. Death and murder are part of Gary's path, and the only end is the dramatic one we all know is coming.
As a psychological thriller, I'd have loved just a little more insight into what happened during the large gaps in time the book spans. Some people seemingly come from nowhere, particularly in the end, and I know they were a part of that murkiness. I also got that Liam sensed Gary's menace from their first encounter, but I didn't see where that came from, as a reader. Gary is definitely shady, but I'd have liked to know how and why we knew that from the first pages. That said, as a retelling of Dorian Gray, I wasn't disappointed.
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