Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 February 03 • Friday

Andrew Neiderman's Brainchild shares with Celia Dale's A Helping Hand the idea of home nurse as homicidal sadist, a plot that Stephen King would also put a spin on in Misery.

All of these books are significantly different, though, and Neiderman's is an exploration of a mad scientist premise, with the mad scientist being an 18-year-old girl, a senior in high school.

Lois Wilson is a science prodigy and a genius. What she's really interested in is behavioral science: predicting what people will do and then, of course, controlling what people will do.

Sure, she starts out with rats and such, but that's boring and limited.

She creates opportunities for human experiments, first by getting two classmates, a boy and a girl, to come over and see if they can control sexual impulses by taking the mystery out of their own nude bodies.

When the other kids' parents find out about this, the experiment gets shut down.

Lois also suffers a humiliating defeat when she tries out for the lead role in her high school play: a production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, a play she knows an cares about deeply.

Her audition doesn't go well.

So it's back to science. Among other academic triumphs, she's allowed to take classes at the local college from a brilliant science professor that she knows and admires.

Kevin McShane is immediately impressed and inspired by his new young student and, in time, a little intimidated, too, as he realizes that he might not be able to keep up with her.

Meanwhile, at home, Lois is programming her little brother to hate and distrust their parents, particularly their mother, manipulating their mother into having a dependency on drugs and alcohol and, finally, destabilizing their parents' relationship to the point where their father has a stroke.

And has to be cared for at home.

By Lois. Since mom has been effectively sidelined and is even kept drugged against her will.

Now Lois has a perfect controlled environment and a helpless human subject.

It's a pretty horrifying situation and Neiderman presents it in fairly matter-of-fact prose, simply letting events play out and describing them in vivid yet understated writing.

This is the kind of book that I would expect Grady Hendrix to write about in his always amusing newsletters. Who knows, maybe he already has?

It's probably not quite bonkers or special enough to be a Paperback from Hell, but it was worth reading.

Thanks once again to Toronto's Little Ghosts horror book store and coffeeshop, where we picked up this volume last month.

The first line is "Billy Wilson squinted as he studied the small white laboratory rat in the glass cage".