Book: “Night of the Mannequins” by Stephen Graham Jones
Publishing Info: Tor.Com, September 2020
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Stephen Graham Jones returns with Night of the Mannequins, a contemporary horror story where a teen prank goes very wrong and all hell breaks loose: is there a supernatural cause, a psychopath on the loose, or both?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novella!
While the “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” books had many stories that messed me up, the one that scarred me the most was that of “Harold”, in which two farmers create a scarecrow to be a joke of a friend, which then comes to life and wreaks havoc. The idea that an inanimate but human looking object could come to life and kill you really scared me. So doing some research into “Night of the Mannequins” by Stephen Graham Jones (beyond the appropriately vague description) got me pretty hyped for the idea of a mannequin coming to life and killing teens in a friend group. After all, mannequins are a bit creepy enough on their own, right?
Now, it is admittedly going to be hard to talk about this novella in detail without potentially treading towards spoiler territory, and I REALLY don’t want to spoil anything for those who don’t want to be spoiled. So just be warned…. there may be hints of spoilers in this review.
Our protagonist/first person narrator is Sawyer, a teenage boy in a group of friends who like to pull pranks on each other, and who at one time found a department store mannequin that they decided to make into their mascot. They called him Manny, and brought him along on all kinds of adventures. As they grew up, Manny was left behind, but as they are nearing the end of high school Sawyer thinks that one more prank with Manny could be fun. And it is… until Sawyer sees Manny stand up and walk away. What comes next is a story that reads like a slasher movie, with a lot of weird deranged action, a very funny narrative voice, and a lot of ambiguity as to what exactly is happening to Sawyer and his friends, and whether or not a mannequin has come to life with a taste for revenge. There isn’t much dread to be found here, but what you do have is a lot of splatterpunk gore descriptions, action that reads like a movie, and a twisted up perception of what is real and what isn’t.
Sawyer is both incredibly funny to follow as well as authentic in his frenzied teenage voice, his ruminations and planning clearly leaving some logic out of his plans in his hopes to save people from Manny the Mannequin. I found myself laughing out loud, even at moments where it probably wasn’t appropriate to be doing so, but like in a slasher film, part of the entertainment is seeing the crazed and over the top kill scenes. Jones sprinkles a little bit of interesting pathos in every once in awhile, be it hints as to Sawyer’s family life or the lives of his friends, as well the fear of losing your childhood and what comes next. I also have to say that Jones does a really good job of making the reader question almost everything in terms of reliability and reality. By the time I got towards the end I thought that I had everything clear in my mind, but then Jones managed to pull the rug out from under me again! His stories have a bit of a brutality to them, but there is always a bit of wryness to go with it, and I really like that.
“Night of the Mannequins” is strange and filled with splatterpunk themes, but it definitely has some inner machinations that are intriguing to find and explore. Plus, it’s a quick read, the perfect one for a season-appropriate afternoon of horror leisure reading. Discover Stephen Graham Jones if you haven’t, and you could totally start here.
Rating 8: A weird and disturbing (but also fun) slasher kinda story. It’s a hoot as well as a trip, and it’s exactly the kind of entertainment a slasher kinda story should be!