Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Recommendation: Through A Mirror, Darkly by Kevin Lucia

Through A Mirror, Darkly is a dark and accomplished collection of interrelated novellas from Kevin Lucia, all set in the small American town of Clifton Heights. The stories are bookended by a framing narrative, the tales purporting to be read by the owner of the Arcane Delights bookstore after a manuscript mysteriously turns up in his store.

Readers will notice the legacy of the great Charles L. Grant in this setup, and it's a tribute to Lucia's skills as a writer that his stories hold up against Grant's. The influence of King and especially Bradbury are also clear in the small-town setting and the readable yet evocative prose. Less integrated, perhaps, is the more overt references to the mythos of Chambers and Lovecraft that pop up. This may be personal taste, but I felt Lucia too accomplished a writer to need to lean so heavily on the work of others. Clifton Heights is such a well-imagined setting that it deserves its own mythos.

The individual stories in the volume are nicely balanced and sequenced, with each shedding more light on Clifton Heights and a wider narrative, but still feeling distinctive in their own right. Opener Suffer The Children is an intriguing take on the Christian faith and personal loss, whilst Admit One tackles that evergreen horror theme of the dangers of getting what one wishes for. And I Watered It, With Tears has perhaps the most straight-forward horror plot here, as a group of strangers are trapped inside a civic centre and are gradually picked off one by one by something nightmarish inside. Despite a certain contrivance to the setup, once the piece hits its stride its a grimly effective piece of horror.

Yellow Cab was my favourite piece, telling the story of a young taxi driver who picks up some very unusual fares in and around Clifton Heights. The driver's aimless life is nicely contrasted with the definite but nebulous destination his passengers ask him to head for... This story displayed all of Lucia's strengths, most prominently an expertly controlled sense of mounting, creeping dread.

Overall, a great read. You can purchase Through A Mirror, Darkly here.

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