REVIEW: A Face Without A Heart by Rick R. Reed

The Official Description: A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

Just the facts: A modern retelling of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

A gritty retelling of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: Rick R. Reed has undertaken a big task in re-telling “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and I have a mixed response to it.

It’s pretty clear in “A Face Without a Name” who the characters are. Gary Adrion is an anagram for Dorian Gray, Henrietta is Henry but as a drag queen… etc. Reed’s version of this story is in a contemporary setting. In some ways that makes the story more gritty and visceral. It’s much less subtle than the original story was and I think that both ways work when it comes down to it.

Liam is an artist who creates holograms of people. When he sees Gary he knows that he wants to relate a hologram of him in spite of the fact that he immediately feels as though Gary is a threat. The hologram is created… and Gary says that he would “sell his soul to the devil” to stay as beautiful as the way Liam has depicted him. Thus begins the supernatural connection between Gary and the portrait.

Reed’s story focuses on the downward spiral of Gary Adrion’s life. Once he learns that the hologram takes on the aging that his physical being would normally do, Gary hides it away. At the same time as he is bothered by the connection, he is aware enough that he doesn’t want anyone to know about it.

The main theme of the story is that a focus on pleasure and hedonistic behavior as the dark side of human nature. The more that Gary does that is cruel, dark, evil, the older, and more disgusting the hologram becomes. As a fan of the original story, I found Reed’s to be much more literal. There’s a finesse in Oscar Wilde’s version that makes Dorian still likable in a way… even as he spirals out of control. I found Gary to be unliveable. He was at best, naïve and at worst he was a complete monster. It was a bit too black and white for me.

I would say that none of Reed’s characters in this story are likable.. that makes this a hard read if you like to connect with characters.

If you haven’t read the original and like very dark literature, this may be the book for you. If you’re interested in comparing them, Reed is certainly a great writer. I’ve been a fan of quite a few of his books. I wouldn’t say this book was a “favorite” but I can see the great writing and appreciate the attempt to retell and modernize a great story.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Dubious consent, suicide, descriptions of dead bodies, drug use, investors thoughts (not acted upon)

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of A Face Without A Heart by Rick R. Reed from NineStar Press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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