Alan Ryker’s Nightmare Man (Book Review)

18297261In Alan Ryker’s Nightmare Man, Jessie, a young collections agent and would-be artist deals with his night terrors, in which he is haunted by dreams of the shadowy Nightmare Man. Jessie’s disorder has become dangerous to his family, as it sends him on sleeping rampages throughout the house as he attempts physical battle with his dream monster.

His marriage and job in jeopardy, Jessie seeks medical help and finds himself in experimental trials for a new drug to combat his night terrors, and eliminate the Nightmare Man. But when his son begins his own night terrors, Jessie is forced to ask if the Nightmare Man is only in his head, or is something much worse.

I really like Alan Ryker’s writing style. He has a conversational tone that puts you at ease, which makes the escalating tension all the greater. In this case, I also felt a personal connection with Jessie, the protagonist. Jessie was an aspiring comic book artist until the birth of his son forced him to take a job that would pay the bills rather than pursue the art he loved. A little known fact is that I was an initially an art major in college and spent most of my childhood drawing comic books. While I have mentioned that in passing on various blogs, it’s not well known that I have issues with parasomnia, the family of sleep disorders that includes night terrors.

I don’t have the issue quite to the level of Jessie, and I wouldn’t consider myself dangerous, but people sleeping in the same bed have been punched, choked, kicked, or groped. In one particular incident, I apparently attempted to bite my ex-wife. I’ve always said that the best horror takes your fears and turns the volume up to eleven.  As such, I found myself relating well to Jessie. But even without my personal attachment, it is easy to connect to Ryker’s protagonist. Notice, I didn’t say “like.” There are things not to like about Jessie, as he is a fully drawn character with some definite flaws. I won’t get into them here, because some of them are important to the story, as Ryker explores the relationship between our personal identities and our life choices.

The horror in this novella is not overdone or over-complicated; it is fairly simple and is done very well. At under 100 pages, it is a quick read with a lot going for it. If you like horror novellas, DarkFuse is a good place to start, and Ryker is one of their best.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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