Daphne is a very intense, very personal novel wrapped in the the trappings of a slasher story that it wears more like a cloak than a full garment. The horror is there. The death. But the stories of the girls in danger pass like kaleidoscope images. The focus is inward, fears and dreams, tricks and promises. I
The most frightening thing about this book is not that there is a monster, or that young girls are in danger. It’s in the things Josh Malerman is teaching you without letting on. You can do anything with your life. Every parent’s promise. Every teacher’s mantra. Take it a step further. Anyone can stop what they are doing at any time, and do whatever they want with their life, because it’s nothing but a string of choices, bouts of weakness and willpower… a thing with no stability at all. Your parents. Your teachers. Nothing but the smoke and mirrors of the ‘real world’ holding them back.
Forget about the seven foot specter with ham hands and heavy metal patches. Forget about the muscle car and the graffiti. Forget because everyone does, and no one is supposed to be thinking about any of that.
Daphne is a novel that reminds me of a trick Peter Straub plays on readers. You get your story, but there are layers, and the story can be just a slasher tale to amuse those not thinking too hard about it, and something altogether different to another sort of reader. Those two readers might talk about the book, and walk away baffled by the other’s response.
Daphne is also one of the most powerful stories I’ve read in a long time, more evidence that there is no line between genre and literature, except in the minds and conceits of readers. And make no mistake, this will touch you, and make you think, and you should not. You should not think about Daphne… and you should not speak of her. And most importantly, if you ask a question, word it carefully and be ready for the answer, because most questions only have one.
Don’t miss this one.