Clockwork Dolls by William Meikle

8/10 A brilliantly written story which offers plenty of rewards for those game enough to read it.

Does all human passion, all memory, all imagination come merely from the chemistry in our brains, like the movements of a clock follow from the arrangement of its cogs and wheels?

Are we just clockwork dolls?

Or is there an organizing principle at work, something we can ask for answers to the important questions of existence... something that might answer?

Discovering the different aspects of the horror genre has been an interesting journey, and I've been surprised at just how rewarding this genre can be despite the darker styles and themes. One highly regarded author in the horror genre, particularly for his short fiction, is William Meikle, whose novella Clockwork Dolls I recently had the pleasure of reading.

Very dark with plenty of adult themes, Clockwork Dolls is a story about what happens when you ask the universe for something, and what happens when the universe decides to answer with its own horrific interpretation.

The main character Dave is a deeply scarred individual - a drunk who pines for the good ol' days. His story is a tragic one, and when he is given the opportunity to ask the universe for something he desires, the fallout from his actions, and then the response from the universe, affects all of his friends in a variety of different ways.

On the surface this may seem like a 'be careful what you wish for' type of story, but deep down there are some more complex machinations at work. Meikle plays with the group dynamic to great affect, exploring how relationships change over time, how the group reacts to challenges now compared to in the past, how individuals mature at different rates within the group and the stresses it creates, and what happens when you try to introduce something new into a group when not everyone is willing to change. It adds authenticity and a human element to the story, which can feel very real because the groups you belong to may have had similar experiences with similar positive or negative outcomes.

In the end, with the way the story plays out, I think Clockwork Dolls might be slightly too dark for my tastes (and probably too dark for those who are not big horror readers). That said, it is undeniably a brilliantly written story which offers plenty of rewards for those game enough to read it.

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