Richard Matheson is a legend in the horror genre. He wrote stories that not only terrified by which caused his readers to reflect on their own lives and look at the world around them in a new light. While not as well knows as some of his works, “Woman” is one such story. Set firmly in the real world and the inequalities of modern society, Woman forces the reader to reflect on reality while being terrified by a master at his craft.
David is a radio psychologist who has given up his practice to be a popular radio personality. His listeners have been calling in about the inequality that exists between men and women. His wife, Liz, is the producer of a TV show, “Country Boy,” that has just been nominated for an Emmy in spite of its sexist humor. When the cast of “Country Boy” congregates at David’s apartment for a party leading up to the award ceremony, they are joined by a strange woman that none of them know but who is demanding that David help her.
When the guests at the little party begins to get ill, even deathly ill, David begins to think that there is more to the strange woman than meets the eye. When she shows up the next day, David knows he is in for serious trouble. The question is whether he can do anything to prevent further tragedy or is this woman simply the opening shot in a new war of the sexes.
Considering that “Woman” is a novella, Matheson takes a fair amount of time setting up the action. Rather than rocket the reader into the middle of a confrontation, he takes time to set the scene and slowly build the tension. Every character in the story has a purpose and is representative of a social role or stereotype in the structure of defining gender roles. These characters are explored in the first half of the novella as the reader is treated to a kind of social commentary by the author.
Matheson ramps up the action and horror toward the end of the novella and keeps the readers on the edge of their seats while at the same time leaving them feeling that there is more to the story than meets the eye. That is the beauty of a Matheson tale. He writes the stories on multiple levels so that it is open to some interpretation and can be read again and again without feeling old at all. “Woman” is an example of this artistry. It is a great tale of terror in its own right but leaves the readers feeling as if they are now a part of something bigger and yearning to discover more.