indie book reviews

review of Dream Faces by Steve Shanks



reviewed by Cy Wyss

Dream Faces is the story of artist Mark Stephens, a man blessed (or cursed) with foresight as he dreams of missing girls and paints them, months before they’re declared missing. Both the police and the bad guys (some small-time Russian mobster and his incompetent henchman) are very interested in Mark’s ability. Mark is just an ordinary guy, by his own admission not even a weightlifter or martial artist of any kind. How will he be able to stand up to the mobster and help the girls? The book is unpredictable, which makes it fun. I won’t spoil the ending by saying whether it is happy or not, but during the ride at least one unnecessarily grievous event occurs. The girls in Mark’s paintings are only thirteen, so putting them in peril is dangerous for the author as well as the characters. (I’m still of the old school thinking that children shouldn’t be unduly harmed in a story.)

There is a lot wrong with Dream Faces. I don’t feel the addition of angels and demons was necessary. Their antics mostly missed their mark with me. I guess the idea of allegory is interesting, but nowadays a more nuanced view of good and evil is expected. Also, some characters didn’t seem to have these guardians, most notably the police officers. The cops themselves are two-dimensional and their actions highly improbable. The bad guys are also shallow, without subtlety. The book needs editing, both in terms of grammar and diction.

In spite of all of this, I found Dream Faces impossible to put down. This is what critics or writing gurus mean when they say “story trumps all.” For, despite its shortcomings, Dream Faces is a good story. You can’t help but root for the girls and the artist, and wonder how the bad guys will be defeated. (Or even whether they’ll be defeated.) So if you’re willing to ignore some obvious structural and technical errors, get Dream Faces. On balance, I think the story is worth it.

Cy Wyss

I am an author currently residing in the Indianapolis area. I write and review mysteries, thrillers, and science fiction. Sign up for my newsletter at right and get a free short story.

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