From the beginning, I knew this story would be different, which is a bit like saying, "I knew all the horses that ran this year's Kentucky Derby would be different." It's obvious each horse is unique, but some we like better than others (especially if we have money on the race...). I liked, not only this story, but Bendix's writing style a lot.
An appropriate subtile to Sebastian Bendix's The Diorama could be "The Sad Tale of Martin Taper," for that is what it was. Like many protagonists, Martin is unfulfilled. His melancholy life is surrounded by poor decisions and unfortunate circumstances. Because he didn't do well in school, he now works in a pet shop where he faces all the negatives of working a retail job complete with a jerk for a boss.
But Martin has hidden talents (as do almost all protagonists...). He's built himself a diorama in his apartment. Just how big is this diorama? Think Beetlejuice. In fact, because of the similarities, I found scenes from that movie flash in my mind from time to time, though the similarities pretty much stop with the actual size of the art piece.
In fact, there's another movie this story reminded me of me, Bedtime Stories. This is not a put-down. The Diorama stands on its own. And if you're thinking this might be a light-hearted story, think again. It's darker than both of those movies, darker by far.
Martin shows his diorama to a neighbor boy and that's where the strange events begin. Martin comes out of his own shadow. He asserts himself and is pleased with the results. There's a girl involved, a co-worker whom Martin begins to date. Things are looking up for our forlorn hero.
That is, until the diorama gets involved.
I have to say that I thought this would have more of a traditional ending, where things work out and everyone's happy, even though the characters experience some hellish things. Nope--Bendix didn't do that. I'm not going to give any more of the story away. Perhaps I have already done that, and if so, I'm sorry. One thing I want to say about The Diorama is its expertly written--first class! And even though I didn't get the ending I was expecting, my experience while reading it more than made up for any deficiencies (or what I might consider deficiencies...). It was a joy to read.
This story is the second-to-last tale in the anthology. I hope when you get to The Diorama you'll feel some of the things I did and appreciate it as well.