Out of Body
by Jeffrey Ford
- Genre: Dark Fantasy
- Publisher: Tor.com
- Length: 170 pages
- Available: May 26, 2020
About the Author: Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The Beyond, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Cosmology of the Wider World, and The Shadow Year. Ford is the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, Nebula, Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Hayakawa Award, and Gran Prix de l’Imaginaire. He lives in Ohio in a hundred and twenty year old farm house surrounded by corn and soybean fields and teaches part time at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Summary: After being injured in a robbery, Owen, a small town librarian, finds he has the ability to leave his sleeping body behind and wander the streets unbound by the laws of nature. It is in this space between dreams and reality where he meets fellow “sleeper”, Melody, and learns that this new world is far more dangerous than it appears, inhabited by unimaginable horrors that lurk around every corner. Driven to investigate the robber who sent him down this path, Owen and his newfound mentor instead find themselves coming face to face with something much worse—an ancient evil that has been hiding in plain sight and feeding on the town. Now, they will have to work together, both in and out of their bodies, if they want to live long enough to see another sunrise.
Undoubtedly, Jeffrey Ford is a big name in horror, and one would be missing out on many great pieces of fiction if they didn’t take the time to check the veracity of that statement, but, that said, Out of Body just couldn’t live up the reputation. It’s length, while making for a succinct read, leaves the feeling that major points of the story have been either left out or glossed over, which continues to impede the story from its start. The pacing feels wonky and uneven, especially toward the end, and all of the great elements that are in the making never come together well enough in the short amount of time they have. The premise itself is enjoyable, and includes some very creepy and fun mechanics, but they are not used to their full potential, and it is clear from their introduction that they serve only to foreshadow the ending, which took such an unusual turn—wait, it’s about vampires now?— that their importance waned in the confusion.
Ford’s prose remains neat and engaging, but there is something consistently off about the dialogue, almost as if the novel has been translated into English from another language. It is difficult to describe, but for those who are familiar with subtitled anime, you will likely notice some familiar, unnatural phrasing that resides somewhere between being melodramatic and just lost in translation. It’s not enough to take away from the novel as a whole, but it is often distracting and worthy of note, especially during tense, tonal moments that were already having trouble finding their footing. In the end, the story goes by so fast, and so awkwardly, that there is hardly any time to enjoy it, and what could have been an interesting take on a time-tested format ends up being easily forgettable.
While the quality writing Jeffrey Ford is known for is there, the novel still manages to fall behind with its humdrum story, barren content, and unremarkable characters, leaving this short novel feeling more like an incomplete draft of something that never came to fruition. For fans of horror looking for a quick and somewhat entertaining read, there are certainly worse choices on the shelf for the modest price, but don’t jump into Out of Body with grand expectations of anything more.