Siren by John Everson


In the study of fiction, we talk about “the willing suspension of disbelief.” It, along with imagination, is what the reader brings to the novel. It helps produce the trance we enter as we read, allows us to SEE the story rather than just READ it. Unfortunately, around the 75% mark, Everson took Siren in a direction that broke me out of my willing suspension of disbelief; he took it in a direction I couldn’t follow. Consequently, the final quarter of the book was difficult to complete. Preferring not to spoil it for you, I won’t detail what spoiled it for me. But from that point on, I read the book to finish it rather than to learn how the conflict resolved itself.

I was intrigued by the book’s premise–that mythological sirens really exist and that one now haunts a small, California city. Also erotic horror is a guilty pleasure of mine. Those were the two reasons I chose this book. The book started well, delving into the characters and the environment, making me care about the protagonist, Evan, and setting an eerie mood. But it soon lost steam. There was more sex than horror through most of the book, and I never once felt afraid. I like to be frightened; that’s why I read horror. And I also like to feel sexy, but the ubiquitous sex scenes failed to achieve even that. They became redundant. As I read them, I kept thinking: Didn’t I just read this in the last chapter?

Yet caring about Evan kept me reading. He’s a middle-aged man mourning the lost of his son and struggling to reestablish relationship with his estranged wife. It was their grief over their son’s death that estranged them. There are good scenes in the novel as Evan struggles to put the past behind them and to normalize his relationship with his wife, Sarah, to rekindle the love they once had for each other.

But my interest ended, as I said, about three-quarters of the way through the book, when I felt my willing suspension of disbelief end. There were hints earlier that things weren’t going well, but they were minor and I ignored them. Then the plot turned a direction I couldn’t follow, and the story was ruined for me.

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