Morning Star Press / January 2010
Reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno
It’s often fascinating to watch a writer’s career trajectory, from that eyebrow-raising first short story that makes one sit up and take notice to the much-anticipated debut novel that confirms the writer’s talent to the emergence of a common theme running throughout subsequent works. For John R. Little, the theme most often at play is loss – and, in his excellent new novella, Dreams in Black and White, he further cements his growing reputation as something of the go-to guy when it comes to time-slip fiction.
Insomniac Charlie Parkinson is about to get two things he most desires: a good night’s sleep and his career-making big break. The former comes by way of a series of mysterious dreams in which the clock designation of 4:42 and tragedies dreamt in black and white figure prominently; the latter comes by way of a lucrative gallery exhibition of photos Charlie takes chasing down these dream-state premonitions, which each result in the death of a stranger. With his wife, Selina, and daughter, Becky, at his side, Charlie seems poised to have it all – despite his increasing unease with profiting off of the misfortune of others. But, as anyone familiar with Little’s stories knows, time is more vicious than the most seasoned of serial killers, and Charlie is about to realize all of his dreams – even his worst nightmares.
Like his previous Miranda and The Gray Zone, Little uses heartbreak as the vessel of horror in Dreams in Black and White. In doing so, he makes a strong case that what’s most terrifying about the human condition isn’t the invasion of otherness into our existence but the inevitability of time upon our lives. Little adeptly uses the concept of time – manipulating, stretching, and forcing it into non-sequential orders – to create conflict and tension for his characters. From this idea of time as antagonist springs the terror of our inability to control it and the certainty of time’s never-ending momentum. Much of horror – if not all – plays upon our fear of death, the finite end of ourselves or those we love. Little capitalizes on that, crafting strong literary fiction while remaining true to his genre roots.
Dreams in Black and White is another strong addition to the Little catalog – a blend of superior storytelling, beauty amidst gut-wrenching heartbreak, and the powerful bonds of our human connections that will leave your stomach in knots and a tear in your eye.
Purchase Dreams in Black and White by John R. Little.