Robert J Wiersema's second novel, Bedtime Story, is a spooky, fast-moving horror novel that asks whether the power of storytelling can be something less-than-wonderful. Christopher Knox is a failing novelist struggling with his very late second novel and his dissolving marriage. When his son turns 11, Christopher blows the birthday present: instead of buying the kid a copy of Lord of the Rings, he comes home with a leather-bound first edition of To the Four Directions, an obscure kids' fantasy novel by Lazarus Took, a writer Knox himself adored in his boyhood.
But Knox is redeemed when David gets utterly hooked on To the Four Directions, skipping meals and getting in trouble at school because he can't tear himself away from it. It seems that Knox has found the answer to his son's status as a "reluctant reader" — right up to the point that David collapses into a catatonic state while reading the novel and is taken to hospital, gripped with seizure after seizure.
Though Knox doesn't know it (at first), David has been literally sucked into the novel, cast as the protagonist in a hero's journey fantasy plot where things aren't quite right. All Knox knows is that reading the book aloud to David takes him out of the seizures and calms him. Soon enough, though, Knox is playing detective, learning more about the mysterious Lazarus Took, his literary estate, the book, and the other people whose lives it has ruined. Bedtime Story becomes a supernatural thriller, a race between Knox and his attempt to discover and break the spell on David, and the forces within the story who are bent on devouring David's soul.
This is a well-crafted story, one that really works through the fantasy novel cliches and looks at the darkness lurking behind them. It was a fun read — and quick, too, despite the hefty, near-500-page weight of the thing. Weirsema's a fine storyteller, and once he gets his hooks into you, you won't want to stop reading.