The Glittering World‘s promotional blurb pitches author Robert Levy’s debut novel as a kind of Lovecraftian In the Woods—a story of trauma and origins that ratchets up to eleven the blink-and-miss-it, ambivalent uncanniness of Tana French’s novel. Forty pages in, it seems as if something even better is in store. A series of bizarre and kaleidoscopic murals—”frolicking manticores, a nude woman with a red star on her back, the flowering roots of swollen tubers”—grace the walls of an abandoned mill, with only one sentence written in explanation: “Borealis the Mother was sent up from the Heavens of the Faraway World to bring comfort to the children of the Screaming Places.”
Purple prose, definitely—but effective in its weird blend of heavenly and hellish imagery. There’s something primal about it. Continue reading
Please note: The following contains spoilers for An English Ghost Story, so read at your own risk!
Do you believe in ghosts? According to surveys in the US and the UK, there’s a pretty good chance that you do. So if you did indeed answer “yes,” the more interesting question might be: what do you think ghosts are? The spirits of those who have died with unfinished business is one common answer, but it is surely not the only one—nor, as Kim Newman’s latest novel demonstrates, is it the only interesting one. There is, to be sure, a long and venerable tradition of using the paranormal as a reflecting glass for the neuroses of one’s earthly protagonists, but in An English Ghost Story, Newman carries this tradition to intriguing extremes. Here, it is the unfinished business of the living that drives the plot, as the fissures and shifting alliances within a troubled family spill psychically into the environment that surrounds them. Continue reading
What is it that fascinates us about creepy children? It’s a cultural obsession that dates back to Henry James’ 1898 The Turn of the Screw, if not earlier. Perhaps it’s the unexpectedness of the source—the discordance of seeing an apparently innocent child speaking and acting in a way that would be unnerving even in an adult. If I had to guess, though, I’d say the most likely explanation for our interest in disconcerting kids is that it taps into something like the uncanny valley; children think and act in ways that recall adult behavior but also differ from it in very subtle ways, and in the hands of a skillful writer, those differences can become deeply unsettling. Continue reading
It’s always difficult when you want a book to be something that it isn’t. Do you judge it based on its own merits, or based on what it could have been? The former seems only fair, but when the promises held out by a book are as tantalizing—and as tantalizingly close to realization—as those in Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements, it’s difficult not to do the latter.
The Supernatural Enhancements is Cantero’s debut English-language novel, and it’s an ambitious one. A supernatural thriller told via journal entries, letters, and transcribed audio and video recordings, the novel bears more than a passing resemblance to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, but it also hearkens back to a longstanding Gothic tradition of patchwork narratives (Dracula and Frankenstein both come to mind). Continue reading