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Kaleidoscope Eyes is a novel written by Graham Watkins. It was first published in 1993.


Kaleidoscope Eyes is a disturbing book, a shocking book. It is certainly a potentially controversial book, and, just as certainly, if there was any organized movement to ban books from sale these days, someone, somewhere, would try to ban it. It is, among other things, a study of how a group of quite ordinary people--intelligent people, perceptive people--can, under the influence of the proper stimulus, discover and plunge headlong into a world where the dividing lines between pain and erotic pleasures cease to exist. More, it is a study of how people who have spent their adult lives trying to deny that any such world exists for them are unable to control these forces--these perfectly natural forces--once they are unleashed. Unlike the vast majority of novels that touch on these topics, Kaleidoscope Eyes does not hint at its subject, it does not view it obliquely, it confronts it directly and graphically.

The novel stresses the normality of the characters; they're people you know, they have ordinary lives, ordinary concerns, ordinary problems. But, through the direct and indirect influences of an enigmatic Mexican woman, an odd kaleidoscope, and the discovery by one of the characters of a strange pattern of murders--events which appear unrelated but are not-- their lives are transformed into something not at all ordinary. The structure of the book follows the general pattern of a Greek tragedy, and is at the same time the story of a rite of passage--at the end, those who survive the ordeal that has been inexorably set into motion will never really return to their ordinary lives; they have been transformed and illuminated by their experience, costly though it may have been.

To study these issues requires a novel that is shocking; still, I trust it is one that readers will enjoy even as it disturbs them.

That, though, is--or should be--the nature of horror; it should be disturbing, it should be upsetting, it should have an emotional impact--it should generate images that stay with the reader and even haunt him or her for a while. Recently, my wife read a piece of short fiction by Scott Urban, a fellow horror writer here in North Carolina; on finishing it, she exclaimed, "My God! This is horrible! How could that nice man write something like this?"

Which is exactly and precisely the desired reaction.