title and cover (click for larger version)
Kaleidoscope Eyes is a disturbing book, a shocking book. It is certainly a potentially controversial book, and, just as certainly, if there was any organized movement to ban books from sale these days, someone, somewhere, would try to ban it. It is, among other things, a study of how a group of quite ordinary people--intelligent people, perceptive people--can, under the influence of the proper stimulus, discover and plunge headlong into a world where the dividing lines between pain and erotic pleasures cease to exist. More, it is a study of how people who have spent their adult lives trying to deny that any such world exists for them are unable to control these forces--these perfectly natural forces--once they are unleashed. Unlike the vast majority of novels that touch on these topics, Kaleidoscope Eyes does not hint at its subject, it does not view it obliquely, it confronts it directly and graphically.
The novel stresses the normality of the characters; they're people you know, they have ordinary lives, ordinary concerns, ordinary problems. But, through the direct and indirect influences of an enigmatic Mexican woman, an odd kaleidoscope, and the discovery by one of the characters of a strange pattern of murders--events which appear unrelated but are not-- their lives are transformed into something not at all ordinary. The structure of the book follows the general pattern of a Greek tragedy, and is at the same time the story of a rite of passage--at the end, those who survive the ordeal that has been inexorably set into motion will never really return to their ordinary lives; they have been transformed and illuminated by their experience, costly though it may have been.
To study these issues requires a novel that is shocking; still, I trust it is one that readers will enjoy even as it disturbs them.
That, though, is--or should be--the nature of horror; it should be disturbing, it should be upsetting, it should have an emotional impact--it should generate images that stay with the reader and even haunt him or her for a while. Recently, my wife read a piece of short fiction by Scott Urban, a fellow horror writer here in North Carolina; on finishing it, she exclaimed, "My God! This is horrible! How could that nice man write something like this?"
Which is exactly and precisely the desired reaction.
Note: It will not be apparent, to the reader of Dark Winds, The Fire Within, or Kaleidoscope Eyes exactly how this book fits into the Rise of the Sixth Sun series. This will be explained in the forthcoming book The Cloud Serpents.
Kaleidoscope Eyes has now been published as an e-book, from Coatl Books, and is available from Amazon.com.
Well, good people, just remember that you heard it here first: Graham Watkins is coming on strong!
Yes, there he goes again, laying on the mental anguish in another spine tingling yam that sticks to the ribs like a knife in the back.
As a matter of fact, it was only back in winter of 1991 that I was raving in these very pages about The Fire Within, which was this erotic hellraiser's second book, following the debut novel Dark Winds. This year's title is Kaleidoscope Eyes. Grab it, it's beyond good, bordering greatness as an entertainment. Would you believe, "Bob and Carrol and Ted and Alice" meet "The Twilight Zone?" Believe it; ages not unlike those of pre-code horror comics. Talk about yer "Tales From The Crypt:" Try sexual games invoking Jalapeno peppers, and pointed objects even. One of the things I said back when I was writing is rather unique, and consequently imposable to a pigeonhole; sort of like the Harold Robbins of horror. Well, with all the recent furor over Anne Rice, having her erotic vampire tales turned into a "major motion picture" (starring Tom Cruise no less) we now have a new yardstick to work with here.
I believe Watkins to be easily fresher, stronger and more substantial than Rice. In achieving ever sharper levels of suspense---without any aid from such tried old stereotypical bogeymen and vampires or witches wolfmen of whatever, which Rice has so successfully revived in her campy "Elvira" meets "Suspira" in "Dark Shadows" vamp-mode----Watkins' vision is much more cerebrally mystical. If Rice is "treacle," Watkins is definetly "brimstone."
He doesn't go "over the top"; none of his characters are what would be referred to as "chewing the scenery." His are a decent normal people swept into subtly critical crises. They are steathly stalked, silently but surely with no razzmatazz or showbiz fanfare. Fantastic premises are quietly understated, allowing for the reader's suspension of disbelief to function casually. As a result, when developments do get wild and woolly, his dramatic payoffs are much more intense and surprising.
As a Watkins reader one somehow forms the firm impression that the only way he is giong to play is tongue in cheek, would be to resolutely bite it off. You won't find any gloomy castles or fanged coffin nappers, but rather an emigmatically inexplicable prehistorically mysterious Celtic, Olmec/Toltec infatuation with human sacrifice--attended all too often by willing victims----casting festering longterm malignancy over fully contemporary characters a situations.
How can this be?
Watkins tends to leave one wondering so; precisely because one cannot pin the tale on any full moon, or blood sucking addiction; or any monster type knock-off either for that matter. So unlike Rice, who has given the old (monster) genre-within-a genre (horror) a novel twist, Watkins continues to threaten to create his own kinky sub-genre with his dimly perceived, misty-dawn-of- time-type, evils-in-abstract-----which are not really unlike those more intangiable malevolences from the pen of an H.P. Lovecraft, for example, in basic conception and content (i.e., they drive men mad).
These are more perplexingly weird and ancient forces---whom have roamed the primal planet sice before modern civilization was even yet a dream of things to come----than even Lovecraft's to my mind, exactly because we' ve not been told where they came from in the first place. Or why they came, or how they got there, or what they really want, etc.......
At least not yet!
This, of course, leaves us with something to look forward to in the future, as opposed to simply more schtickfrom the same old tired true formulas.
As he's a former parapsychology researcher, I don't think Watkins will be running out of freshly astounding elements very soon, however. So our speculative suspicsions are much likely to deepen in darkness before clearing of enlightenment, apparently for the forseeable future. But what fun in the meantime! Watkins is skilled enough to exploit these gray areas of our knowledge and make us dig deeper and think harder than Rice ever could with R-rated monster-romance novels. Another facet of Watkins' work mirrors, in a funhouse manner, some sort of perverted Sir Arthur Connan Doyle, who also happened to be a parapsychology reseacher as well as an author. Watkins sucks readers into his mysteries; forcing us to play psychic Sherlock Holmes and seach for clues, even as the cast of characters is summarily overwhelmed: wrenching forth, from our imaginative throats, involuntary shouts at the screen, so to speak of: "I woundn't do that if I were you," or "Oh no! Duck! Quick!"; or possibly even "Elementary, My Dear Watkins!"
Unlike other reviews of the book I've seen, I don't want to spoil anything given to you by the plot details from Kaleidoscope Eyes. Suffice it to say that this stuff sizzles and is absolutely adult fare. Once again, as in his last book, practically every major character ends up sleeping with one another. Likewise, again with the reincarnation themes and strange women with scary resources. And it is definetly not for the squeamish.
O.K., O.K.! A couple of little hints, if you insist: But that all you're getting out of me!
From heaven? Or from hell? Submitted for your approval: An ecstasy-including, accursed cosmic-kaleidoscope of doom and a suspected sex-murder virus. You figure it out.
Oh yeah, and someone in the book says: "We've turned into a tribe, I think, in the oldest and purest sense."
Now go read.