April 15, 2021

Horror Facts

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‘The Man in the Box’: Book Review

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They say the devil is in the details. If that’s true, then the new book by Brandon Rhiness must be a saint.

The Canadian screenwriter and director’s second book, titled ‘The Man in the Box,’ tells the story of Rue Mallory, who, after the sudden death of her husband, decides to try to contact him in the spirit world. In the process, she opens a door to the other side, and unfortunately for Rue, you can’t control what decides to walk through the door.

It didn’t take long for me to lose interest and become detached from the words on the page. When I read a book, I find it important to become emotionally invested in the book’s characters, but I found myself caring very little for this book’s protagonist right from the start. 

Generally, a book tells the story of a protagonist who starts off one way, but throughout the book they are forced to face obstacles and challenges which cause them to evolve and change, so that, by the time the story is over, they are not the same person we started with.

It felt like the writer tried to do this by having a character that starts as a dark and angry person. The writer then tells us the story of how they start to become manipulated and slowly corrupted before they eventually become completely possessed by a demonic force. The issue with this story arc is that at no point did I believe what was on the page. This was largely due to the fact it felt like the main character kept changing every chapter. 

One minute, they’re cold and bitter. Then, pages later, they turn into a love-struck teen before suddenly turning into a psycho, only to become afraid of their own shadow before essentially turning into Dexter Morgan and then abruptly turning into the victim of the story, only to end up a psychopath again.

This is coupled with the fact that at no point did I have a clear idea of what Rue looked like. I couldn’t tell you how old she was or even what her hair color was. The ever-changing attitude and lack of physical detail made it impossible to ever get a grip on who or what she was supposed to be.

The book was also lacking in detail during many major events. This might have something to do with the fact that the author primarily writes screenplays in which detail can be sparse. 

This lack of detail is especially evident in the book’s ending. Our protagonist finally comes face to face with the story’s antagonist and can vanquish them in a matter of ten pages.

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Only to once again do another character flip before the end of the book.

Also, no book should ever include the phrase:

“What happened over the next several hours is too disgusting to put into words.”

The story tried to put too much into two hundred pages. It started as a ghost story and then turned into a crime novel before becoming a book about battling a demon. 

I feel the story would have been more successful if it had focused on the ghost elements of the story. 

The idea of communicating with the other side and something supernatural crossing over? Yes, it’s been done many times in the past, but there’s a reason why that story continues to be told: it works. Tell a good story about someone being haunted and tormented by a spirit and people will read it.

Unfortunately for Brandon Rhiness, on a scale of 1-5, I’m going to have to rate this book two out of five stars.

It was a good attempt at something new but, unfortunately, it failed to deliver due to its inconsistent protagonist, lack of detail, and the writer’s attempt to put too many things into too short a book.