A child-sized doll is the object of his mother’s obsession. He’s beginning to wonder why…
The son of a world-renowned photographer, Morgan Riley is familiar with his mother’s creative eccentricities. Having been the subject of one of her photographic series, he knows all too well how focused she can become with a new project. So he’s not overly concerned when his mother shows him her newest series that spotlights a small, featureless white plastic manikin the size of a two-year-old child that his mother has named Sebastian. However, as Morgan watches his mother’s obsession with the manikin grow, he begins to question her sanity and fear for her safety…
Hi and welcome to my review of Sebastian!
With the spooky season just around the corner, I was having a look at the upcoming Flame Tree Press books. I fell in horror love with Sebastian the very instant I spotted it. There are few horror tropes that truly freak me out, but creepy dolls is definitely in the top three so I figured Sebastian would be right up my #spooktober reading street.
I think it was fortunate that I went in with very few expectations. I did expect Sebastian to give me the heebie-jeebies, but how it was going to go about that, I had no idea and I was basically up for anything. It crossed my mind that a sort of Child’s Play / Annabelle-like experience might be on the cards but that’s not at all what this story was like, so I’m happy I didn’t go in with that fixed idea.
The story is told from the perspective of Morgan, the son of a famous photographer who has got hold of a manikin that is about the size of a young boy, which she’ll be using as a Halloween and photograph prop. Morgan is creeped out by Sebastian from the get-go, as was I, but things get creepier and creepier when his mum starts to treat Sebastian as a real boy. Is she delusional or is Sebastian more than the plastic dummy he seems to be?
As I said above, Sebastian is no Chuckie. He doesn’t run about wielding a knife. This story is a lot more insidious than that and if I were to describe it in one word, I’d say it’s eerie. It also focuses on the somewhat complicated relationship between Morgan and his mum, with Sebastian as some kind of focal point. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me. Oftentimes, the eeriness is not so much in what is actually said and shown but in the things left unspoken and hidden, not so much in what is, but in what might be.
After feeling rather underwhelmed by a number of books and heading for a slump, picking up Sebastian was the best decision I could have made. It was a breath of fresh air and I was completely absorbed. It might not be your typical horror story or creepy doll tale, but it is so so good and I had a fantastic time with it. It’s also much more tragic than I thought it would be, for reasons I can’t disclose, and it unexpectedly hit me right in the feels.
Don’t expect any of your questions answered at the end, I feel like I have more now than when I started out. While that can in fact annoy the crap out of me, in this very instance, I couldn’t care less, to me Sebastian was practically perfect in every way and I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Sebastian is out on 18 October.
Massive thanks to Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.
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