Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Review:THE CHILDREN OF OLD LEECH edited by Ross E Lockhart & Justin Steele (Word Horde)
As I've recently stated, I've been trying to catch up and read all of Laird Barron's works. The man's writing is magnificent; it draws you in and doesn't let you go easily. I've found myself more than once reading the last page, closing the book and then simply laying there, absorbing what I'd just read. Embracing the weird. Relishing the dread.
Apparently I wasn't the only one so transfixed. Ross Lockhart, editor extraordinaire from Word Horde, and Justin Steele, author of the wonderful blog The Arkham Digest, have gathered together a stellar list of speculative fiction writers to pay tribute to the inimitable Mr Barron. With The Children of Old Leech, Lockhart and Steele have not only assembled a brilliant collection of dark, weird fiction but they also present a truly fitting homage to a writer whose imprint on the horror and weird fiction genres is epic.
Each story in The Children of Old Leech leads you deeper and deeper into the "carnivorous cosmos" of Laird Barron; all the authors here have crafted glorious tributes to the master, faithfully plumbing his Mythos to create a truly stunning collection. Each story is indeed worthy of its own review; here are my favorites:
The Harrow by Gemma Files opens the collection with a dark story that descends into true horror at the end. Sets the bar high for the following tales, loved it.
Orrin Grey is a writer who I find myself enjoying more and more. Walpurgisnacht continues that trend, telling the story of a revel held for a retiring artist that turns into quite another kind of celebration.
Snake Wine by Jeffrey Thomas takes us to Vietnam and an ex-pat pub owner from Melbourne who is seduced by an exotic young woman What follows after their night of passion is an increasingly sinister mystery told with frightening imagery.
Both Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox and Firedancing feature protagonists that are caught up in the rapturous spell of their worldly mentors, leading them to higher places and unknown fates. In Love Songs, T.E. Grau perfectly captures the feeling of the 1950s and delivers a truly horrifying climax. Meanwhile, in Firedancing, Michael Griffin presents a dark tale of art, relationships and enlightment. A nice one, two punch.
Reading Cody Goodfellow's Of a Thousand Cuts made me squirm. Which for me is the sign of a story that is really getting under my skin with its imagery and language. A good sign. Excellent story, masterful storytelling.
And finally, my favorite jewel in this dark treasure chest, John Langan's Ymir. The story acts a continuation of Barron's classic "Hallucigenia" and revisits the story of Wallace and Helen Smith and the mysterious Choate clan brilliantly. Langan channels Barron here so completely and the climax is so stunning that the reader is left breathless.
The Children of Old Leech is a triumph for Lockhart and Steele, and a tremendous gift for purveyors of dark fiction. Look for this volume to be on multiple "best of" lists this year. Mr Barron would be proud!