To borrow the oft-quoted cover blurb from Stephen King, “If you’ve missed Laymon, you’ve missed a treat.” If you’ve never had the pleasure, I urge you to pick one up one of Laymon’s books (One Rainy Night remains my favourite). They’re the literary equivalent of watching a low-budget slasher flick while riding a dilapidated old roller coaster – a deliciously enjoyable thrill ride that doesn’t require much from the reader, other than to strap in, hold tight . . . and enjoy.
Body Rides is pretty much an average Laymon tale, but still more fun than anything else you’re likely to read this summer. The basic plot is pretty simple. After rescuing a beautiful woman from a vicious serial killer, Neal finds himself gifted with a bracelet that allows him to leave his body and hitch a ride in anybody he chooses, experiencing their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. During his first long-distance ride, Neal discovers that not only is the serial killer he left for dead very much alive, but he’s come to finish the job . . . and there’s nothing Neal can do but watch from inside his victim.
A large portion of the book is dedicated to Neal’s initial flight (from the authorities & the killer) and his relationships with two women who become key to the eventual resolution of the story. By the end, all three of them have used the bracelet for various voyeuristic, investigative, erotic, and frightening body rides. Although the story could have been a good 100 pages shorter, Laymon’s books are always as much about the experience and the atmosphere as they are about the plot, and that’s part of the thrill.
Personally, I would have loved to share more in Neal’s experiences riding along in either Sue or Marta’s body, but we certainly get our fair share of Sue experiencing Neal – and the novelty/curiosity is certainly handled very well.
Like I said, nobody is ever going to accuse Laymon of being the greatest writer of the 20th century, but that’s fine. Nobody is going to accuse Friday the 13th of being the greatest example of 20th cinema either, but it’s still damned fun to watch with the lights out.