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The Tooth Fairy
     

The Tooth Fairy

by Graham Joyce
 

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Sam and his friends are like any normal gang of normal young boys. Roaming wild around the outskirts of their car-factory town. Daring adults to challenge their freedom.

Until the day Sam wakes to find the Tooth Fairy sitting on the edge of his bed. Not the benign figure of childhood myth, but an enigmatic presence that both torments and seduces him, changing his

Overview

Sam and his friends are like any normal gang of normal young boys. Roaming wild around the outskirts of their car-factory town. Daring adults to challenge their freedom.

Until the day Sam wakes to find the Tooth Fairy sitting on the edge of his bed. Not the benign figure of childhood myth, but an enigmatic presence that both torments and seduces him, changing his life forever.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com editor
The Barnes & Noble Review

Its been a long wait for American lovers of the macabre. Graham Joyce's disturbing, mesmerizing dark fantasy "The Tooth Fairy" knocked Britain for a loop in 1996 when it was first released. It went on to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and all the while the United States has been patiently waiting for it to make its stateside appearance.

That time has come.

"The Tooth Fairy" lives up to its hype and should have little problem becoming an instant classic. Joyce's coming-of-age tale mixed with a pitch-black fairy tale is chilling, touching, and ultimately unforgettable. It's as if the Brothers Grimm reinterpreted Stephen King's novella "The Body" (which went on to become the basis for the film "Stand by Me").

In the English Midlands of the 1960s, three young boys are grappling with the typical trials and tribulations of coming-of-age. But one of them, Sam Southall, has a particularly unique problem. One night after putting a tooth under his pillow, he awakes to find a disgusting, horrifying beast in his bedroom. Identifying itself as the Tooth Fairy, it is as shocked as Sam to find that Sam can see it, since it has always been able to move invisibly through the human world.

Thus begins the complex friendship between Sam and this beast. The Tooth Fairy is at turns friendly, violent, and sexual. One moment he can be showing Sam the wonders of the constellations with a telescope, and the next he can be showing him how to masturbate in the middle of Sunday School class. Or, if the Tooth Fairy is in a particularly dark mood, he may just physically hurt Sam for telling others about the Tooth Fairy.

What makes the book truly frightening, however, is that the Tooth Fairy is an extremely complex being, capable of developing very human emotions and acting on them just as irrationally as we might -- or more so. Over the years, as Sam approaches his teenage years, the Tooth Fairy develops an obsession with him. Appealing to Sam's pending puberty, the Tooth Fairy alters itself into a repugnant, but oddly erotic, female form. And in its efforts to keep Sam to itself, it has the terrifying tendency to hurt -- or even kill -- anyone who threatens Sam's happiness. And pity the person who dares to compete with the Tooth Fairy for Sam's affections -- such as, perhaps, the pretty tomboy who is the cause of jealousies between the three friends.

"The Tooth Fairy" is quiet, subtle horror at its finest. Joyce is a master at luring you into a false sense of security. The novel even opens with a peaceful scene of the young boys dipping their feet into the local pond. But, not two paragraphs into the book, tragedy strikes.

Clive was on the far side of the green pond, torturing a king-crested newt. Sam and Terry languished under a vast oak, offering their chubby white feet to the dark water. The sprawling oak leaned out across the mirroring pond, dappling the water's surface with clear reflections of leaf and branch and of acorns ripening slowly in verdant cups.

It was high summer. Pigeons cooed softly in the trees, and Clive's family picnicked nearby. Two older boys fished for perch about thirty yards away. Sam saw the pike briefly. At first he thought he was looking at a submerged log. It hung inches below the surface, utterly still, like something suspended in ice. Green and gold, it was a phantom, a spirit from another world. Sam tried to utter a warning, but the apparition of the pike had him mesmerized. It flashed at the surface of the water as it came up to take away, in a single bite, the two smallest toes of Terry's left foot.

Joyce knows that horror in fiction should be unpredictable and sudden -- just like in real life. The millions who feasted this winter on the silver screen's "Scream 2" might be disappointed in the low body count of "The Tooth Fairy", but Joyce smartly realizes that keeping the suspense concentrated in a few, well-timed scenes is more effective than a splatterfest. This is the ultimate fairy tale for adults.

The only problem one might have while reading a book this good is a nagging fear that Joyce may not be able to pull off an ending that measures up to the brilliance that preceded it. Not to worry -- just when you think the author has painted himself into a corner with the complex plotting, he brings "The Tooth Fairy" to a thoroughly satisfying head. Joyce is already one of Britain's hottest sensations. Watch for him to soon have an equally devoted following in the United States. --Matt Schwartz

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An unlikely sprite assumes a sinister incarnation in this exceptional supernatural novel about a troublesome but endearing trio of boys coming of age in the English Midlands in the 1960s. Seven-year-old Sam first lays eyes on the Tooth Fairyoddly dressed and smelling of horse's sweat and chamomilein the middle of the night after he has stashed a tooth under his pillow. Over the years, the fairy becomes a fixture in his life. No one else can see or hear this odd creature, who is sometimes male, sometimes female and alternately coy, cruel and cuddly. Even without this personal demon, Sam would get into plenty of trouble with his chums: Clive, a "gifted child" who wins a NASA (yes, the American NASA) science contest at age six but longs to be normal; Terry, an affable lad whose life is plagued by catastrophe; and Alice, the fetching, knowing girl who drives the boys wild with lust. Joyce (Requiem) engagingly describes the boys' childhood experiencessampling drugs, toying with explosives, worrying over acneand carefully portrays their childlike stoicism in the face of several horrifying tragedies. Sam worries that the Tooth Fairy, who grows menacing and sexually demanding, is responsible for those calamities. The novel's appeal lies primarily in the three boys, who are charmingly mischievous, nave and hormone-driven, portrayed by Joyce with a gentle wit. No less compelling, though, is the fairy, a fleur de mal from childhood's secret garden whose perfume seduces Sam and the reader alike into a fertile, startling nightmare. (Mar.) FYI: The Tooth Fairy has won the 1997 British Fantasy Award for best novel. (PW best book of 1998)
VOYA - Bette Ammon
Sam's childhood seems typical as he and his two best friends grow up in 1960s England. All this changes when Sam loses his first tooth and is visited by an out-of-the-ordinary Tooth Fairy. This creepy, nasty, and mostly nocturnal creature calls upon Sam regularly throughout his childhood and adolescence. She feeds his fears, capitalizes on his guilt, and sometimes seems a friend and lover. Although Sam is the only one who can see the Tooth Fairy, she guides many of his choices and emotions and haunts his nights, at times seductive and always demanding. This dark coming-of-age fantasy provides a compelling look at a boy's (and later a young man's) transition to adolescence fraught with fear, guilt, and excitement. The reader comes to know all the players and will marvel at the accurate portrayals of friendship, betrayal, romance, and familial horror. Mature fans of King and Koontz will appreciate the powerful parable and memorable characters. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Jenny Blackford
I recommend this novel highly.
The New York Review of Science Fiction
David Soyka
...The Tooth Fairy is a must read...The plot twists and turns, and more than a few times leads you places you don't quite expect.
SF Site
Hank Wagner
Seven-year-old Sam Southall awakens the night he loses his first tooth and encounters a strange visitor. He surprises the odd little creature, who, after recovering its composure, reveals itself as the Tooth Fairy of legend. Thus begins a relationship which endures until Sam leaves for college, a strange, touching, sometimes dangerous association that adds spice and terror to Sam's otherwise normal existence. The Tooth Fairy, whose appearance, demeanor and sex change constantly, accompanies Sam on his journey through adolescence, sharing his triumphs and tragedies, even ushering him into manhood with his first sexual experience. Along the way, the he/she/it protects Sam, but also exposes him to a variety of dangers; the mercurial creature is by turns adversarial and supportive, giving the novel a certain edginess.

From the outset, Joyce stresses the uncertainty of life. One of the more horrifying events in the novel takes place well before the Tooth Fairy appears. In the book's opening scene, one of Sam's friends is attacked by a pike as he dangles his feet in a stream. The boy loses a toe, and is destined to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. The attack, frightening because of its suddenness and harshness, is a stunning reminder of how quickly lives can change. One minute you are safe, bullshitting with your friends, the next you are being hurried off to the emergency room. It also points out that no one is in control -- neither children nor their parents.

Joyce's point is that the only sure thing in life is change--he expresses this sentiment perfectly, using Sam as a prism. Who better to portray the ambiguity of life than a teenager, whose perceptions change along with his body? Joyce uses his innate understanding of childhood to great advantage, creating a story that can be taken as a supernatural tale or as a psychological study of a troubled adolescent grappling with impending adulthood.

Joyce returns to the theme of ambiguity again and again. Consider, for example, the Tooth Fairy's gender or lack thereof -- its form varies with Sam's age and mood. Besides its physical malleability, it also assumes a striking variety of roles, acting in turn as friend, foe, prophet, protector, lover, and conscience. While it often taunts and threatens him, it also helps him handle bullies, protects him from crazy adults, and initiates him into the wonders of sex. In short, it is whatever Sam needs it to be.

There is also the question of whether the Tooth Fairy exists at all -- the book permits either interpretation. Interestingly, the Tooth Fairy appears to Sam soon after a traumatic event at school. One might say that it appeared in response to the event, perhaps as Sam's coping mechanism. Thereafter, its visits coincide with the turbulent events in Sam's life, suggesting that it may all be in his mind. Cunningly, Joyce has Sam visit a psychiatrist, to whom he confesses all about the Tooth Fairy. The psychiatrist, bent on fulfilling his own expectations, blithely ignores Sam, choosing instead to pepper him with inane questions about his sexual urges.

Considering the differences between The Tooth Fairy and Requiem (the only other of Joyce's seven novels to find U. S. publication), it's hard to predict what the author, a three time winner of the British Fantasy Award, will do next. Based on prior experience, however, it promises to be strange and original. In the meantime, we can hope that all his previous work somehow finds its way to the US. I for one am looking forward to that day.
darkecho.com

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312868338
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
12/28/1998
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
324
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 8.36(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

ONE

Pike

Clive was on the far side of the green pond, torturing a king-crested newt. Sam and Terry languished under a vast oak, offering their chubby white feet to the dark water. The sprawling oak leaned out across the mirroring pond, dappling the water's surface with clear reflections of leaf and branch and of acorns ripening slowly in verdant cups.

It was high summer. Pigeons cooed softly in the trees, and Clive's family picnicked nearby. Two older boys fished for perch about thirty yards away. Sam saw the pike briefly. At first he thought he was looking at a submerged log. It hung inches below the surface, utterly still, like something suspended in ice. Green and gold, it was a phantom, a spirit from another world. Sam tried to utter a warning, but the apparition of the pike had him mesmerized. It flashed at the surface of the water as it came up to take away, in a single bite, the two smallest toes of Terry's left foot.

The thing was gone before Terry understood what had happened. He withdrew his foot slowly from the water. Two tiny crimson beads glistened where his toes had been. One of the beads plumped and dripped into the water. Terry turned to Sam with a puzzled smile, as if some joke was being played. As the wound began to sting, his smile vanished and he began to scream.

Clive's mother and father, in charge that afternoon, were lying on the grass, he with his head in her lap. Sam ran to them. Clive's father lifted his head to see what the commotion was all about.

"Terry's been bitten by a green fish," said Sam.

Clive's father scrambled to his feet and raced along the bank. Terry was still screaming, holding his foot. Mr. Rogers kneeled to part Terry's hands, and the color drained from his face. Instinctively he put Terry's tiny foot to his mouth and sucked at the wound.

Clive's mother quickly joined her husband at the scene. The two boys who'd been fishing laid down their rods and wandered over to take a look. "What happened? Did he fall in?"

Clive was still on the other side of the pond. Sam called him over. Mr. Rogers, hands trembling, fumbled for a handkerchief. He tied it around the bleeding foot, lifted Terry in his arms and jogged back toward the housing estate.

Clive arrived, breathless. "What is it?"

"Come on," his mother said sharply, as if Clive were somehow to blame. She gathered up her picnic blanket and marched the boys from the field. The two older boys were still asking what had happened, but she was tight-lipped.

Sam followed behind her, understanding that Terry was only five and life had taken away two of his toes, presumably forever. He hoped for better luck for himself.

• • •

Clive's father jogged the half mile to Terry's caravan. There Terry lived with his mother and father and with his twin brothers, who were not yet nine months old. The Morrises inhabited a rust-bucket Bluebird caravan in an untidy garden behind a cottage. They paid a small ground-rent to the owner of the cottage, an old man who never came out of his house. Sam lived in one of a row of semidetached houses running up to the cottage, seven street numbers away from Terry.

The caravan rested on a pile of red housebricks where the wheels should have been. It butted up against a hedge, as far from the cottage as possible. Holes made by various animals and marauding children punctured the hedge, behind which sprawled a scrubby piece of waste ground. Whatever status Mr. Morris had dropped by living in a caravan he reclaimed by owning a sports car. Sam's father certainly couldn't afford a car in those days, and neither could Clive's old man. It seemed to the boys something of an injustice that both Clive's and Sam's fathers worked in a car factory and didn't possess a car, yet Terry's father, whose work was a mystery to everyone, was the proud owner of a spoke-wheeled, soft-top MG glinting in the yard alongside the rusting caravan.

That Sunday afternoon, Eric Rogers carried the still blubbering Terry down from the pond and snatched open the caravan door to find the Morrises engaged in a private act. The twins slumbered in their cot. Mr. Morris swore as Mr. Rogers backed out with his whimpering bundle, yelling that they should come and take care of their son. Chris Morris emerged wild-eyed, struggling with the zip of his trousers. Moments later he'd bundled Terry into the back of the MG and was revving the engine. Mrs. Morris, coitally crimson, stepped out of the caravan in a faded silk dressing gown, her mahogany curls spilling everywhere, insisting she go with them. Then she remembered the twins snoozing in the cot. Mr. and Mrs. Morris started screaming at each other before Mr. Morris sped off to the City General Hospital.

But what could be done? At the casualty ward they dressed Terry's tiny foot and gave him an antitetanus jab. They stroked his golden hair and told him to be a brave soldier. They had no spare toes to offer.

"A pike?" the doctor repeated in disbelief. "A pike, you say?"

Nev Southall, Sam's father, saw the green MG return from the hospital. Having heard the story from Sam, he dithered for fifteen minutes before going round to see how things were with the boy. He found Chris Morris in a state of high agitation, lashing a Stanley knife to a broom handle.

"How's the kid, Chris?"

"Sleeping."

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going up the road and I'm going to get that pike."

Nev looked at the Stanley knife and the pole and at the net Morris had spread out on the floor, and his heart sank. If there was something he knew a thing or two about, it was catching fish. "Not with that thing you won't."

"It's all I've got." Chris slung the pole and the net in the back of his car.

Nev knew it was a hopeless waste of time, that pike number among the most difficult of fish to catch, even with good tackle. But he couldn't let Chris go back up to the pond alone. "Wait. I've got some gear. Let's try to do it properly."

Nev picked up a couple of rods and reels, a good-sized landing net and his basket of equipment. With Sam in the back of the sports car they roared up the lane to the pond. It was already after five o'clock in the afternoon. The sun had become a pallid yellow disc floating low in the sky, flooding the pond with diffuse light. Sam showed them where the incident had happened.

"You could fish this for years and not get him," Nev said, setting up the rods. Chris Morris wasn't listening. He was staring into the dark waters, landing net poised, as if he thought the pike might oblige by leaping into it.

Sam noticed that his father did all the talking and Terry's father said nothing. He just kept staring into the gloomy pond water. Dusk came. Nev felt he'd made his gesture. He'd had enough of this nonsense.

"Another day, Chris," he said. "Another day."

"You go on home," said Terry's father. "Just leave me the net. I'll drop it back to you."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure."

So Nev and Sam left Chris Morris prowling the darkening bank of the pond and made their way down the lane on foot.

"Will he catch the pike?" Sam said, well after they were out of earshot.

"Not a chance in hell," said his father.

Copyright © 1996 by Graham Joyce

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