Review by Brennan LaFaro
Okay, let’s get the gush out of the way. Off Limits Press is doing all the right things. All the releases have been winners and the future looks bright. That said, Greg Sisco’s In Nightmares We’re Alone is right at home. At 250 pages, Sisco’s novel tells a story in a non-traditional way, adhering close to the format of a mosaic novel, yet straying far enough to avoid that label. By 70 pages in, the reader feels like they know the whole story. Where could it possibly go next?
Sisco examines that question by retreading, showing us the same twelve days from a different perspective in Act 2, and from a third in Act 3.
Act 1, “Good Little Dolly” is the high-point of the novel. If the cover freaked you out, the first story will do the same. Sisco puts us in the heard of Macie, a second-grade girl whose mother fixates on doll collecting to fill a hole in her life. Filled with doll horror, and a second sub-genre I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers, Act 1 rockets toward calamity and is one of the more unforgettable pieces of fiction I’ve read in some time.
Act 2, “Growth”, switches subgenre on us going full on body horror when our new main character begins sprouting plants from his finger and toenails. Sisco lets us get to know Casey for a little bit before revealing the connection to the first part of the story, and it pays off, giving the reader a chance to understand this person before preconceived notions can find their way in. The author brings the squirms with this section, but doesn’t skimp on the character development in order to do it.
Act 3, “That Thing We Don’t See”, embraces quiet horror. By this point, the reader knows they will be inside the head of a character who has previously been involved in the story, so Sisco doesn’t keep it a secret. It is, for the most part, an unexpected character, which only furthers intrigue. The title gives you a heads up that we’ll be visiting somber, more existential territory, in this portion, and though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first, it’s a fitting close to a wide-reaching story.
To tell one complete story in a variety of styles is no easy feat, but it’s pulled off admirably here. There are occasions where Sisco tells the same events from different perspectives. Scenes that could have been stale coming from a different writer provide new insight into characters the reader assumed they had figured out. The theme of understanding what people are going through before judging them is ever-present throughout the story and subtly dropped throughout managing to avoid beating the reader over the head.
Though my introduction to Sisco’s work was through the wonderful story, “Summers with Annie” in Grindhouse’s Worst Laid Plans anthology, this book serves as a fantastic initiation to the author for any reader. Sisco displays his ability to write in a variety of styles, as well as telling a connected overarching story that engages the reader for the entire runtime. Look for more from this author.
I was given a copy by the publisher for review consideration.