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The Man on the Ceiling
Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem
Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, 384 pages

Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem
Steve Rasnic Tem was born in 1950 in Jonesville, Virginia, which is in the heart of Appalachia. He went to college at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and also at Virginia Commonwealth. He got a B.A. in English education. In 1974, he moved to Colorado and studied creative writing at Colorado State University.

Melanie Tem was born in 1949. Her novels include Prodigal (recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement, First Novel), Blood Moon, Wilding, Revenant, Desmodus, The Tides, Black River, Pioneer, Slain in the Spirit, and The Deceiver.

Collaborative novels include Making Love and Witch-Light with Nancy Holder and Daughters with Steve Rasnic Tem. The couple have three kids and live in a large house in Colorado.

Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Steve Rasnic Tem
ISFDB Bibliography: Melanie Tem
SF Site Review: The Man On The Ceiling

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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The Man on the Ceiling Originally published as a chapbook in 2000, The Man on the Ceiling won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Award and the World Fantasy Award. The present volume is an expanded version, incorrectly defined "a novel." Truth be told, this book defies any label in terms of both literary form and genre definition. A cross between fiction and autobiography ("Everything we're telling you here is true" the authors keep repeating obsessively throughout the book), more mainstream than horror, this collaborative work by Melanie & Steve Tem represents a fascinating puzzle, a unique example in the recent dark literature.

The man on the ceiling is, to some extent, the equivalent of the bogeyman in the closet, but instead of a scare for little children, he is a living nightmare for parents, the symbol of everything bad that can befall the family, the actual incarnation of that feeling of impending disaster which keeps awake a mother or a father in the middle of the night. And something bad already occurred in the past, the death by suicide of a son, a tragedy still lingering in the parents' hearts as well as in the dark corners of the house.

By no means a horror story, The Man on the Ceiling is much, much more.

Memories from the past such as the reality of family trips, a childhood spent in a small town, little events taking place in the neighbourhood, all blend into the wider tableau of the family life taking place in a household constituted by a number of adopted children growing up under the Tems' affectionate wings. Melanie and Steve Tem reminisce (a fleeting friendship with a young boy bound to vanish one day in thin air; a crash between two small airplanes near their house, etc.), Melanie and Steve love and care, Melanie and Steve Tem worry, they worry a lot.

The horrors described in this book, always reported in a casual tone, are the horrors of everyday's life: the fear of losing a loved one or of being unable to give enough love to the people we care for. Melanie and Steve Tem are scared because nothing stays the same, things change, people change, the unknown is hidden around the corner, we're getting older, death gets closer and what will we be leaving behind? Melanie and Steve Tem are scared and remind us that we all should be scared because we are parents, and because we are human beings. Life is scary and families are safe but fragile havens where we are going to find both joy and sorrow. So, in a sense, the main theme of this work is family and the meaning it has in our life.

Whatever this book may be -- I still don't know how to classify it -- it is written in a beautiful prose and, despite its unassuming, apparently low-key style, provides an insightful view of how affection and fear are deeply entangled within our souls. In any respect, it's an exquisite reading experience.

Copyright © 2008 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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