« Slaughter / Marcus F. Griffin | Main | Deadfall / Shaun Jeffrey »

Invisible Fences / Norman Prentiss

Cemetery Dance Publications / May 2010
Reviewed by: Blu Gilliand

Invisible Fences is a cautionary tale about, well, cautionary tales. You know the kind we’re talking about – after all, our parents were all storytellers, spinning sometimes outrageous yarns as part of their strategy to temper our behavior. Who among us hasn’t heard things like “Don’t cross your eyes, they’ll stick,” or “Don’t make faces, it’ll freeze like that.” Cautionary tales were told to keep us from crossing the street without first looking both ways, and to keep us from accepting candy (or, even worse, a ride) from strangers. They were stories passed down from generation to generation, sometimes modified according to situation and parental creativity, but always with the same core idea: to keep us safe from the big, bad world.

In most circumstances, these stories served their purpose and then fell away as we got older, coming back to us only when it was time to share them with our own children. But sometimes these tales go further, and have a more profound effect. Used recklessly, they can do more than make children cautious about the world around them – they can make them scared of it, prevent them from growing and exploring and coming into their own. Instead of viewing the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder, some kids may never be able to escape the suffocating blankets these stories can become. Such is the case in this, Norman Prentiss’s debut in book form. An accomplished author of short stories, Prentiss proves he has the chops for longer work in this new release from Cemetery Dance, part of their acclaimed Novella Series.

Invisible Fences revolves around a young boy named Nathan, whose parents wield cautionary tales like blunt tools. They talk of bloodthirsty cars roaming the streets, eager to run down children who dare to try and get to the other side, and of gangs of dope fiends prowling the woods, waiting for an opportunity to force drugs into the veins of the small and weak.

Nathan takes all of this in and, for the most part, stays within the boundaries these tales set for him. Until, that is, he and his sister join Nathan’s friend Aaron on an excursion into the woods one day. Instead of freeing Nathan, the consequences of that trip build fences around his life that continue to confine him even as he grows into an adult.

Prentiss writes with an assured voice, weaving a tale of building disquiet. The scares here don’t approach the kind of shock that Nathan’s parents strive for in their garish stories; instead, Prentiss works in the more quiet tradition of Charles L. Grant, filling each page with unsettling dread. Above all else, what Nathan learned from his over-protective parents is the art of lying to himself. He’s become bound by what could happen, what might happen, and, in the case of that fateful walk in the woods, what he has fooled himself into believing happened.  But the truth of that day, and of his whole life up to this point, is coming out, whether Nathan is ready or not.

Invisible Fences is dark and atmospheric, a quick read that lingers long after the final sentence is read. It marks another excellent entry in the Cemetery Dance library, and an impressive debut for its author.

Purchase Invisible Fences by Norman Prentiss.

Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 02:08PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend