We all have nightmares, but not all of us have to live them. Johnathon Clarke did. His bullies beat him. They humiliated him. They stole his life. So at the age of 17 he took it away with a bullet from a gun.
In Hell John finds himself working out his existence in the mailroom, until he’s given the promotion he died for—he becomes the forger of nightmares, the giver of bad dreams.
With his new position, John makes his assignments feel the fear he’s felt his entire existence. He does this until he’s assigned a young girl named Danielle. Danielle’s not much younger than John was, and the circumstances surrounding why she’s been assigned are troubling. They’re troubling because he disagrees. Now John must decide between continuing this life of torture and scares, or using this dark gift for something else, something that could help this girl who needs him.
John Clarke is a cool character, and I wish I had gotten to know him better. Kenneth Buff’s vision of Hell was really creative and unique, and I enjoyed the imagery. The concept of this book had a ton of potential. We enter the story as John enters Hell, which is the beginning of a new journey for him. He quickly advances in the ranks and ends up being a sort of boogeyman; someone who weaves nightmares for the wicked.
I wish that we could have seen more of the struggle for John as he loses his humanity, and then fights to regain it for the sake of love. I found the rapid POV switches and the throwaway characters who are the victims of John’s nightmares to be more of a distraction than anything else. I feel that the story would have been more consistent if John’s point of view had remained the dominant one.
I also had a hard time with the throwaway characters, like the old man at the lake and the guardian. The characterization and their stories felt sort of rushed, and I didn’t really get to know anyone the way I would’ve liked. I feel like this story was a really brilliant, original idea, but a bit skeletal, and could have been extended into three fleshed-out books.