The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror: From one of our most important contemporary writers, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror is a bold, haunting collection of six stories.
In the title story, a young boy becomes obsessed with his cousin’s doll after she tragically passes away from leukemia. As he grows older, he begins to collect “found dolls” from the surrounding neighborhoods and stores his treasures in the abandoned carriage house on his family’s estate. But just what kind of dolls are they? In “Gun Accident,” a teenage girl is thrilled when her favorite teacher asks her to house-sit, even on short notice. But when an intruder forces his way into the house while the girl is there, the fate of more than one life is changed forever. In “Equatorial,” set in the exotic Galapagos, an affluent American wife experiences disorienting assaults upon her sense of who her charismatic husband really is, and what his plans may be for her.
In The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the “fascination of the abomination” that is at the core of the most profound, the most unsettling, and the most memorable of dark mystery fiction- Goodreads
The Doll Master and Other Tales of Terror Review
Joyce Carol Oates is certainly a prolific, award-winning author, but one that I’d only barely heard of. Each of her stories in The Doll-Master and other Tales of Terror have an unsettling quality to them that bothers you in ways you can’t quite describe.
I think that Soldier is perhaps the strongest tale of the bunch, as it calls to mind some of the (presumably) race-related killings that have happened lately. A disturbing, but well-written read, the mindset of the “Soldier” is believable and I wish it wasn’t.
Equatorial is probably the weakest story in the book It lost my attention halfway through, and it was a struggle to finish reading it. After a certain point, you just don’t care any more, no matter how the ending picks up. You just want to be done, and this tale of a paranoid (perhaps justly so) heiress with her husband seemed to never end.
Overall, Joyce writes of horrors that get under your skin because they are all of the sort which are believably evil (albeit some more-so than others.) There is no paranormal, no outside force, no unexplainable happenings. There is just evil, circumstance, statistics, and the a gathering of the bottom dregs of humanity.