Mae Crowe's Reviews > The Remaking

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
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bookshelves: arc, horror, tv-film-industry

*Received an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway, as run by Quirk Books. Thank you!

The Remaking... Where do I start with The Remaking?

I suppose I should say right up front that I'm extremely conflicted about this book. It's this odd mixture of a poignant theme and an underwhelming story that I usually only find in classic literature. That is to say, I could write essays on this book and thoroughly enjoy exploring the implications, but the reading experience itself was somewhat lacking. As a result, I've been wondering what to rate this for a while now, and I'm still not sure what I settled on is right. This book is just too nuanced to be limited by a five-star rating system.

So buckle down for a long review as I try to break down the nuances.

(And if that's not for you, as always, there's a bolded tl;dr at the bottom.)

Firstly, it is a disservice to this book to describe it as a supernatural thriller. The supernatural entities that exist in The Remaking have very little sway over the actual story or the horror therein. In fact, for the first couple encounters, you're left wondering if what happened was real or just a product of Amber's fear and trauma. It isn't until the last portion of the book that there's any evidence that anyone else can see and hear the things she has seen and heard.

The real horror of this book has nothing to do with the ghosts of Jessica and Ella Louise Ford; rather, it has everything to do with egotistical male creatives who believe they have the right to romanticize the wrongs committed against women.

There are three male creatives who attempt to recreate the story of the Little Witch Girl of Pilot's Creek: Lee Ketchum, Sergio Gillespie, and Nate Denison. There is very little difference between the three of them: they's all overconfident in their creative abilities, they all believe they were destined to tell Jessica's story, and they all actively use Amber to their own ends. I think the best part of their characterization is that they all seem like decent men - if a tad egotistical - when they're first introduced. They all practically worship Amber in their own ways, but as soon as she gets in the way of their goals, suddenly she's a bitch, a witch, and everything in between for preventing them from telling a story that is rightfully theirs.

Except, no, it's not.

Which brings me to my second point: The Remaking is a masterpiece of parallelism.

Amber's story follows much the same track as that of the Fords: she is ostracized for the trauma that society has brought upon her. First, it's her mother forcing her into an acting career and not allowing her to have a childhood. Then, it's Lee's treatment of her on set. Then, it's horror fans romanticizing her trauma, Sergio to the point where he thinks he loves her. Then, it's the disaster of the remake and the failure of the cast, crew, and court system to recognize her distress.

It goes on and on and on, until Amber identifies herself as a Ford - seen as a witch and murderer when she's just trying the deal with the traumas that everyone else refuses to recognize. And thus, she follows the same course: people hate her, but believe they are entitled to their romanticized version of her story.

It's more than a little sick.

(Just a side note, a large part of me is convinced that Jessica and Ella Louise were not witches, despite the supernatural elements of this story. Why? Because of the role of rumors in Amber's story and the way everything else lines up.)

As for the story itself, the plot's execution just isn't as good as it could have been. I know, I know: that sounds weird after I just praised the implications of the story, but it really is something separate that I have to consider. Chapman clearly set his sights high for The Remaking: a story like this requires subtlety, nuance, attention to detail. It's not supposed to be an in-you-face story, but one where the tension builds gradually, dread and anger swelling in your heart. I can admire the intentions that were obviously there, and it pains me to say this, but the intention wasn't enough. It just... it wasn't quite there. A result of pacing? Style? Personal preference? That, I can't quite pin down, but despite the implications and intrigue, the story itself was rather underwhelming.

I also have no clue what's going on with POV in this book. Seriously. I've examined and re-examined the points where the POV switches again and again, and I can't think of any rational reason it was done.

"But Mae, I thought you loved when you got the POV of different characters!"

I do. But as it turns out, I'm less of a fan of the changing between types of POV.

I'm serious. This book goes from second-person to third-person to first-person. The only switch that makes sense is having the first part of the book in second-person - it serves almost as a prologue, told as though you're sitting by a campfire with a drunk old man who's telling you the story of the Fords. It has an awesome effect, but... I have no clue why the book later went from third to first. And to make things absolutely clear, it has nothing to do with the character - Amber has sections that are both third and first POV. After part one, there should have been either third or first chosen. No switches. Just one or the other.

(I also think we could have done with some more of Amber's POV in the last section. Her unraveling is a big part of this story, and being cut off from her thoughts for so long feels wrong somehow. I truly think we need Nate's POV, because a lot of the horror comes from the bullshit that goes through the head of him and those that came before him, but while the other parts feel balanced between, this one... Doesn't.)

To make it perfectly clear, I'm glad I read The Remaking, even if I'm not entirely sure I'd read it again. As a woman who takes interest in the happenings of the TV/film industries, I admire Chapman for bringing up the problem our entertainment industries have with the careless romanticizing of real-world tragedy. Because it is a problem. We have a habit of making these things glamorous and heart-wrenching while willfully ignoring how ugly the story really is. And honestly, kudos to the author for basing this story on a true story with that theme without falling into the same trap. You have to admire the attention-to-detail that takes.

The Remaking speaks to some very real issues of the entertainment industry: namely, the romanticizing of tragedy and men's entitlement to a woman's trauma. This theme manifests through careful parallelism and glimpses into the characters' psychs. Despite some shortcomings of the story itself, it's an important message that Chapman presents in a way that it cannot be ignored.
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Reading Progress

April 8, 2019 – Shelved
April 8, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
August 12, 2019 – Started Reading
August 13, 2019 –
page 113
35.31% "Pretty good so far, but like... I'm pretty sure the author intended it to be creepier than it actually is. What happened to Amber in the second part should have been TERRIFYING but tbh I'm far more concerned about her mother and the asshole director than the ACTUAL spook"
August 14, 2019 –
page 247
77.19% "Gonna finish this tomorrow and probably gonna be a longer-than-usual review, because I have some Thoughts™"
August 15, 2019 – Shelved as: arc
August 15, 2019 – Shelved as: horror
August 15, 2019 – Shelved as: tv-film-industry
August 15, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Adron (new)

Adron Buske I appreciate the perception and depth of this review. I enjoyed this more than the 3 star rating, but I think you captured a lot of the what makes this novel worth exploring. I took a few notes from this review and used them while interviewing the author, so you have my thanks for helping me to clarify and frame my thinking on the text.

Pale Rider on a  Pale Horse This is a great review. Really helped pinpoint how I felt about the book when I finished it.

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