There finally came a point about a hundred pages into Jeffrey Thomas’s novel Thought Forms that I thought “Okay, I may end up liking this.” The story, which had been slow going up until then, seemed to be ramping up to the action promised by its premise. We’d learned lots of technical information about the goings-on at the factories that cousins Ray (leather purses) and Paul (plastics) work in, we’d gotten hints that both might spend a little too much time focusing on their macabre artwork and violent weekend videos, and we’d seen both struggle in their personal and professional lives. We knew by then that Ray’s parents had been brutally murdered years before, in the very house he lived in now. We knew that both were on a path of unfulfilled dreams and frustrations that often lead to bad things happening.
At around that hundred page point, Thomas began to tell us about the weird things that sometimes happened at the plastics factory. Stories of ghosts glimpsed around corners and weird activity. And I began to get a sense of where we were heading. It was becoming clear that while some people might assume Paul was a troubled individual because of the violent nature of his drawings and the pentagram worn around his neck, Ray was the one with real problems. It was Ray, after all, who thought he was being watched; Ray who was in a confusing and frustrating relationship with a female co-worker; and Ray who was studying up on things like astral projection and poltergeists. Things were starting to look good…
…unfortunately, they never went anywhere. Oh, things started to happen. It was just difficult to discern exactly what, and when, and why. This confusion, this inability to clearly point out the connections between the events happening separately to Ray and Paul, is the heart of the problem with Thought Forms.
As things begin to go wrong in Ray’s life, events at Paul’s place of work also begin to deteriorate. The problem is, we see things in Ray’s timeline as they happen over a series of weeks (or longer – again, Thomas never makes it clear), while the events at Paul’s factory happen over the course of one night. In Ray’s life, his budding romance with co-worker Heidi goes quickly off the rails, although she constantly confuses the matter by refusing to choose between Ray and her fiance. People wearing strange hooded robes keep showing up at his house, and someone kills his dog. As these things unfold, Thomas takes us back and forth between these events and scenes at Paul’s factory, where all but one small crew of workers has mysteriously disappeared. Something has trapped the remaining workers inside, where it violently picks them off one by one. These events are intercut as if they are happening at the same time, and that would make some sense, but the timelines don’t match up.
Additionally, there are a number of awkward phrases thrown in here and there that really pull the reader out of the story. Things like “Her expression stayed expressionless,” for example, or when a character says, “‘Well, you can hear it downstairs, but it’s too noisy to hear it.'” Pile on a copious amount of spelling and layout mistakes, and you’ve got a book that is almost too much trouble to struggle through.
It’s a shame, because there really is a good, solid scary story hidden in Thought Forms. Unfortunately, reading it is like reading a very messy first draft – there are a lot of things that could easily have been fixed, cleared up and cleaned up to help that story emerge from the wreckage, but it appears that nobody took the time. Thought Forms is a book that not enough thought was put into before it was released.