A memorable collection from a dynamic new press thematically unified around that most primal of fears: deep, murky water occupied by things unknown. The grotesque swims parallel to the lyrical in Fish Gather to Listen. There is much here to disturb and delight, often simultaneously.
I absolutely adore Jeff VanderMeer’s work. This is the eighth book of his that I’ve read, and the first I’ve ever disliked. Still love Jeff, he remains one of my favorite authors, but this was a slog. I wish I had more to say, but that is that.
Mapping the Interior is a powerhouse of a novella by Stephen Graham Jones. It’s astonishing to me how some writers can make such a gut-punch impact in 100 slim pages that others struggle to achieve after 400. This story is haunted by searing recursive imagery and faulty memory, lenses blurred by love and dissociation. Mostly limited to the walls of the family home, the setting heightens the urgency, accelerating with every page. The forces who watch from the edge of this story never fully reveal themselves, but we all know them, and they are terrifying–especially seen through the eyes of the narrator–just a boy who barely knows what has happened to him, and later, a man trying to make sense of it.
The subtitle on the cover of Tripping Arcadia says “a gothic novel.” And it is, in the most classical sense. Extreme, explosive emotions. Blending the beautiful with the obscene. Rich people who are incredibly unhappy. People whose first reaction to somebody they feel slighted by is to try to kill them. Unreliable, loathsome first person narrator. This book has all that. Less Gatsby, more Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein. It’s not supposed to make sense–it’s gothic!
Isabel Cañas brings a dreamy haunted song of a story into the world with her debut, The Hacienda. Deeply atmospheric and psychological, this novel explores the costly war for the soul of one house that is both isolated from and shaped by the social unrest that surrounds it. Cañas brings us a tale that is dark and beautiful, that will make you want to light at least one candle against the late hours of the night, examine the unspoken yearnings of your heart… and listen to your walls.
I absolutely love the cinematic, pulp-meets-literary quality of Benjamin Percy’s writing. His pacing is fearless and fast, and this second installment in his Comet Cycle is a wild, dark, slippery ride filled with horrors and lots of very wonderfully gross mushroom action. But also banter. I liked this book even more than the first (would totally work as a standalone). I’m excited to see even more of Percy’s twisted imagination unleashed in the next installment. What on earth… or elsewhere… could be next?
The Changeling is a stunning piece of modern horror. Victor LaValle pulls off a feat that somehow blends humor, terror, the incorporation of fairytales, social commentary, a New York City setting, and a narrative voice so genuine that you can’t help but trust it implicitly. There are so many allegorical levels at work here, it’s dizzying. It’s a story about parenthood, race, gender, belief, technology, evil, and dogged hope. A fascinating read.
This book is a fascinating, deeply disturbing study on how childhood trauma impacted two lives: one who went on to commit horrific violence, and another who went on to become a loving parent with a happy life. The latter of these is Liza Rodman, who recounts her childhood in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the heart of the 1960’s. The former was her sometime babysitter, Tony Costa-a man who became nothing less than a demon, plagued by violent impulses and devoid of remorse. The way these two real-life narratives intertwine (Rodman’s in first person, Tony’s in a meticulously researched third person from journalist Jennifer Jordan) is engrossing and horrifying. It reminds us that evil sits side by side with the benign, and that we should always trust our instincts when we feel that something… or someone… is off.
Once There Were Wolves is a masterclass in narrative tension. Charlotte McConaghy weaves mysteries together like poetry, and pulls those threads tight. This book simply smolders. The characters are compelling, each dealing with legacies of violence in their own way. There are plenty of wolves to be seen, and they are described in a transfixing, soul-stopping way. The wolf has been seen throughout history as the beautiful horror that lurks in the woods, and the book lets that concept out to play. How do we reconcile these twin capacities: the one to awe and the one to kill? That question is for wolves, for love, for human progress, and it’s all here to consider.
Sarah Perry’s sophomore novel may be a gothic tale about fear, but the writing itself is absolutely fearless. Uniting several different stories that cross time and place by cataloging them as proof in a surreal monster investigation, Perry dissects the idea of guilt in ways both sweeping and intimate. In a narrative style that pulls the reader (at times uncomfortably) close, the story allows us to discover and dread along with our protagonist. Unnerving, at times devastating, at times funny, and always honest, this is a modern, cursed gothic story told with a wildfire level of passion, even as it masquerades beneath British restraint.