Audiobook Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tantor Audio (February 23, 2021)
Length: 2 hrs and 58 mins
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Gary Tiedemann
Night of the Mannequins was my second book by Stephen Graham Jones, and compared to The Only Good Indians, I would say it was most definitely more my cup of tea! Or at least it was, until the ending. But I’ll get into that later.
It all started with a prank. Our protagonist Sawyer, a teenage boy with too much time on his hands, is part of a group of friends who decided to have a little fun with one of their own. Some years before, the gang had been playing in the woods when they happened to come across a discarded plastic mannequin, the kind you typically find in any department store. Nicknamed Manny, the mannequin had been an endless source of amusement, but then the kids grew up. Manny has since been stowed in Sawyer’s garage, almost forgotten, but now the friends are in their last year of high school, and they’ve decided to bring their plastic pal out for one final stunt.
The plan was simple—or should have been, anyway. Recent shenanigans by the group had resulted in one of them, Shanna, working at the local cinema as punishment, inspiring the rest of them—Sawyer, Tim, JR, and Danielle—to play a trick on her, with Manny as the star of the show. Step one: smuggle the mannequin into the theater in pieces. Step two: reassemble him and dress him up in some old clothes. Step 3: place Manny into a center seat up in front, so that when Shanna comes by later to check ticket stubs, she would get the shock of her life.
However, much to Sawyer’s consternation and horror, that moment never arrives. Instead, the would-be pranksters all sit stunned at the back of the theater watching as, at the end of the show, Manny stiffly gets up and walks away. Not long after that, a semi-truck swerves off the highway and smashes into Shanna’s house, killing everyone inside. Everyone is calling it a random freak accident, just a sad case of wrong place, wrong time. Still, while it should have been impossible, Sawyer can’t help but feel with a sick certainty in his gut that Manny is somehow responsible.
In my very limited experience with the author, I can already tell he loves his ambiguous stories, blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural. Throughout this entire tale, you can never really trust what you’re seeing or hearing through Sawyer’s eyes because as you’ve probably guessed, he’s as unreliable as they come. The writing also reflects his frame of mind, presented in an almost stream of consciousness flood of memories, thoughts and observations. It likely would have been a struggle reading this book in print, but fortunately the style wasn’t as much of an obstacle with the audio format.
Due to the vagueness of the plot, it’s also very difficult to talk about it without giving too much away. There’s a dreamlike quality to it, which might be more accurately described as a nightmare as the story becomes stranger, losing much of its coherence the more it progressed. There’s really no better way to put it: it’s like a descent into madness.
In the end, that was what prevented me from embracing this book fully. The first half was nothing short of brilliant; I loved the chilling atmosphere and the horrific moment as you realized the prank involving Manny was not going at all as planned, and that there was definitely something freaky afoot. The final section of the book though, was very different. As you know, I’m not one to enjoy “weird” books. I just don’t do too well with “weird.” And well, that ending was WEIRD. Plus, the final revelations just weren’t that great. I had wanted more, especially since we were teased so hard with all the preceding twists and turns. The tensions by then were practically through the roof, but ultimately, the ending that we got wasn’t even a fizzle but more of a “huh?”
That said, this being such a short read/listen, I don’t know if the negatives were significant enough to really make a blip in my enjoyment. On the whole, I really liked the book’s concept and execution, creepy vibes and all. Since novellas aren’t typically something I prefer, I was also impressed how well this one worked for me, and I’ll be looking out for even more of Stephen Graham Jones’ work in the future.
Oh it’s quite intriguing! It’s the first time I hear about this one
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The cover is striking. Thanks for the warning, Mogsy. I don’t understand “weird” books either. Good review!
Yeah, weird books are typically hard for me to get into.
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The moment I read the word “mannequin” I knew your review would focus on the kind of King-inspired horror I enjoy reading, and since I don’t dislike weirdness this might work for me: if I have some concerns they are in the ending, given your description of it – probably if this had been a full novel instead of a novella, there would have been more narrative space to work it out in a better way.
Still, I might indeed give this one a peek, so.. thanks for sharing! 🙂
If you’re not turned off by weirdness, this could work. It does get a bit out of hand towards the end, but that’s just my opinion due to personal preference!
A shame about the ending – that can really break the overall feel for me – but you still seemed to enjoy this so perhaps one for the wishlist.
It was a good thing that it was short, or the ending would have made more a negative impact 🙂
Yes… it takes real writing chops to wind suspenses up so tight – and then deliver at the end! It sounds like this one simply couldn’t do it – thank you for an excellent review pointing that out!
Yep, definitely not a fan of that ending! But I don’t know how else it could have ended…maybe the author wasn’t sure either 😛
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Yes… there are books where authors can get away with that writing strategy – but I don’t think that applies to most thrillers!
Yeah I had the same reaction. I was like WTF at the end, it was so weird. But I loved this too!
I know right?! Up to the end, I was really enjoying this.
Oh man this sounds FREAKY. That premise… sorry that it sorta fell down towards the end though. Ugh I hate that!
Me too, if only it stuck the ending!
I read this one recently but it was a DNF. A bit too much of the inane conversations and annoying characters for me!
I agree the character’s stream of consciousness style of narration could be a bit odd, lol!
So I suppose the movie, Mannequin, isn’t really an accurate comparison to this one. 🙂
LOL! Definitely not 😀 Funny enough though, I never thought the concept of that movie was romantic or funny, the idea of a mannequin coming to life is CREEPY! 😀
Oh wow, such a short one! But it sounds like it did the job pretty well. I think I might be able to squeeze such a short read in somewhere…might check it out. Glad this one worked out!
It’s short for sure! You’ll knock it right out 🙂
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Now I wonder how weird….
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I need to go pick this one up asap!!
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