Genre can sell a book to a built-in audience, but it can also create expectations in the reader (or even in the writer) that a particular story does not meet. Marcy Italiano‘s Pain Machine certainly could be classified as horror, but it doesn’t resemble the Stephen King School.

Title: Pain Machine
Author: Marcy Italiano
Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-59224-104-2

Available from Amazon.com and
Amazon.ca

Premise:

A device designed to assist doctors by allowing one person to experience another’s pain has consequences unforeseen by its creators.

High Point:

I can imagine a device such as this one being built, and the consequences being akin to what occurs in this book. This isn’t a jolt-a-moment thriller or supernatural horror. It’s a story set in our world, with a moderate SF/horror premise that can inspire fear because the premise seems entirely credible.

Low Point:

A passage concludes Chapter Thirteen, and exists apparently to show that Mynah is a jerk. We’ve already seen his unsympathetic side presented in the context of the story; this section seems disconnected from the novel.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. We all recognize Frankenstein Syndrome: the creation proves more dangerous than the creator imagined. We live this. However, I have not encountered Italiano’s specific twist on the subject before, and she develops it in a plausible way.

Imagery: 5/6.

Story: 5/6 Pain Machine brings its two main plots together in a satisfying manner.

Characterization: 5/6. I believed in these characters, and especially in the dynamics of the main characters’ relationships. In a few places, I found the presentation forced.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Editing: 5/6. Stylistically, Italiano writes better than many writers who have received (thus far) greater recognition.

Overall score: 5/6. Pain Machine makes interesting reading for a broad audience beyond the horror market to which it was marketed.

In total, Pain Machine receives 34/42