Sunday 23 July 2017

Recommendation: Alectryomancer & Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky

Alectryomancer & Other Weird Tales is the first collection from Christopher Slatsky, and a pretty special debut it is too. Each of the stories here fits firmly into the US 'post-Ligotti' school of weird fiction, while displaying Slatsky's singular, evocative style.

In common with much horror, Slatsky's tales typically begin with some realistic scene setting, into which an element of the strange or the bizarre intrudes: a stain looking like a human form in one story, foundations breaking through the earth in another. But what makes these pieces extraordinary is that the intrusion is not just (or not even) a physical one, but the eruption of an intellectual or artistic conceit into the story itself. I don't just mean that the characters and events of the tale are increasingly governed by and reacting to the weird, but that the imagery and language gradually seem infected too, overwhelmed by the concept Slatsky is working with. So, the story that begins with the stain looking like a person ('Loveliness Like A Shadow') becomes saturated with imagery of statues, reflections, photos, and instances of pareidolia.

It takes a skilled stylist to pull this off without it becoming boring or impenetrable; it takes an accomplished horror writer to keep doing so and still have the results be so unnerving and atmospheric. Fortunately, Slatsky is both. His stories are dense, intricately woven yet surprising creations that utilise everything from cosmicism to body-horror to achieve their effects. My favourites included the aforementioned 'Loveliness Like A Shadow', plus the insectoid creepiness of 'An Infestation Of Stars', the architecture-based cosmic horror of 'No One Is Sleeping In This World', and one of the scariest creepy cinemas stories I've read, 'Film Maudit'.

A deep, dark, compelling collection, Alectryomancer & Other Weird Tales is required reading for literary horror fans.

Alectryomancer & Other Weird Tales (UK | US)

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