Aaron J. French is a name that crossed my radar thanks to his involvement as editor of the recently released anthology, The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft. When I got word of his solo release through Samhain's horror division, and gave the synopsis a gander, I knew I had to read it.
The premise of The Dream Beings is simply outstanding - a psychic PI battling demons who are controlling a vicious killer that seems to have a sort of personal vendetta against him. Good stuff and worth a look, as far as I'm concerned.
Unfortunately, French's novella failed to live up to my expectations. While it started off strong with an appropriately grisly murder and decapitation sequence, I found myself losing interest fairly quickly afterward.
A few issues cropped up that really limited my enjoyment of this story.
First off was the dialogue. French uses dialogue to infodump, and in great quantities, while he's attempting to get the story into the swing of things. PI Jack Evens and his friend/Homicide detective Oscar engage in long-winded, unnatural, and stilted exchanges that carry on way too long and serve only to give reader's a sort of long oral history on Evens and his, and his family's history of, psychic powers.
My second issue had to do with the imbalanced tone that French adopts. Evens is a smartass, but the humor never really worked for me. This is an entirely subjective point, but when he tries to be funny if often derailed the story for me, especially when he drops an famous, much-cited quote from the movie Predator during the story's climax. There's also a lot going on here for a fairly short story, which only perpetuates this sense of imbalance. The psychic, horror, demonic, maybe ancient gods, cosmic riffs, and spiritual questioning never seem to gel into a unified narrative, as if French had a lot of ideas to tangentially connect but wasn't able to give them the proper depth and focus required due to a limited word count.
This may sound overly harsh and critical, but I'm going to issue a reminder here that I'm giving a two-star rating on the Goodreads metric, which is defined as "it was OK." And that's a fairly sufficient summation as any that I could give this book. I didn't hate it; I was able to read it and stuck with it in its entirety, thanks to its brevity. If there were a "Meh" rating, I may with that, but "OK" is about the closest I can get right now. Overall, I had a few too many problems with the execution and delivery, and found it missing more notes than it hit.
[Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]