Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Best Horror of the Year – Volume 9


 


The Best Horror of the Year – Volume 9

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Nesters – Siobhan Carroll The Oestridae – Robert Levy The Process Is a Process All Its Own – Peter Straub The Bad Hour – Christopher Golden Red Rabbit – Steve Rasnic Tem It’s All the Same Road in the End – Brian Hodge Fury – DB Waters Grave Goods – Gemma Files Between Dry Ribs – Gregory Norman Bossert The Days of Our Lives – Adam L. G. Nevill The House of Wonders – C.E. Ward The Numbers – Christopher Burns Bright Crown of Joy – Livia Llewellyn The Beautiful Thing We Will Become – Kristi DeMeester Wish You Were Here – Nadia Bulkin Ragman – Rebecca Lloyd What’s Out There? – Gary McMahon No Matter Which Way We Turned – Brian Evenson The Castellmarch Man – Ray Cluley The Ice Beneath Us – Steve Duffy On These Blackened Shores of Time – Brian Hodge

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Night Shade Books 2017

When I real-time review this anthology, my comments will appear in the thought stream below…


24 thoughts on “The Best Horror of the Year – Volume 9”


  1. NESTERS by SIOBHAN CARROLL
    “The dust-lung had him.”
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    “If he was trying to frighten Pa with that flapping paper, he didn’t know nothing.”
    It’s as if the flapping pages I imagine this book possessing, turning, at its start, to dust – dust dunes or sand dunes with a Colour out of Space at its heart. As I follow Sally, the young daughter and sister, entering more a Heart of Darkness where family links become a corroded gestalt…
    “Don’t try to solve all the problems at once, Pa always said. Break them up. Deal with each one in order.”
    Each grain of dust, a sort of Southern Gothic Blood Kin as Link, with a Howser, where the living off the land for these Nesters is one of fighting dust not Tem’s kudzu. Where animal stomachs and vegetable turnips equally have dust within.
    A stoic miracle, though. As we follow Sally into a hyper-nightmarishly evoked battle that this story gives us to share, almost, almost, as hope…
    “Sally remembered the color from the old days,

  2. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    THE OESTRIDAE by Robert Levy
    “And just when I think I’ve finally run out of hope, one last drip of it leaks out to ruin everything.”
    Another haunting and well-written story, one that is in tune with the oestrogen-transfer of the previous story, a vaguely feminine version of Dorian Gray or Jekyll-Hyde, this time telling of a brother (trainee surgeon) and sister in a Pennsylvanian family house among the trees and mountains, still looking for their missing mother, when someone turns up calling herself an aunt, their mother’s sister. Here the Oestridae or botflies (the latter word strangely and tellingly like a computer virus to my mind) represent an objective-correlative within the increasingly disturbing process towards – as well as against – a leaching or burrowing identity.

  3. THE PROCESS IS A PROCESS ALL ITS OWN by PETER STRAUB
    “Tilly Hayward was one of those men in possession of two lives. Either he was a dark, disturbing criminal sociopath who wore a more conventional person around him like a perfectly fitted suit of clothing, or he was a conventional person who within himself concealed a being like a wild animal.”
    “—turns out, words are blue collar guys.”
    Significant that a killing blade cuts into “blue broadcloth shirt” much later in this text. Not many of us would notice that.
    This is an amazing work of fiction straight from the function as well as dysfunction fiction room (where I shall now put it.). It is essential reading for those who enjoy either experimental fiction or the conservative horror genre – or both, as this eminently is.
    IMG_3494It also reminds me of William H Gass’s work, where Trump is on every old page of the written past (as he is, as an synaesthesic serialist, in this STRAUB, somehow) and Gass’s ON BEING BLUE, a sensory listing of words and their Siobhan Carroll duststorm of meanings, colours, smells, with a heart of darkness as well as, paradoxically, of colour and fragrance. I finished my review of that very GASS yesterday!
    This Straub starts with the smell of words, a Gass of words, and I cannot do justice how this is accomplished, conjured as bubbles as well as, inferentially, as dustmotes of meaning. And leads to a madness of stalking that reminds me of the Consul stalking drinks in UNDER THE VOLCANO that I also just finished reviewing!
    And the inverse hawling or dreamcatching of the gestalt at the end of this substantive work, where body parts are placed this way and that on the cobblestones.
    Horrific and disturbing, with no redemption – as UNDER THE VOLCANO or in the shadow of Trump Tower.
    “At the you know. During the. Maybe. If not then, what a pity, never.”

  4. THE BAD HOUR by CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN
    “Maybe it’s one demon or maybe it’s a bunch of little ones, like parasites, but it gets stronger.”
    …in the same way as do our era’s motes and myriads make the man or woman… or father or mother. An era many of us call the bad hour, in the hope this hour, like other hours to date, is finite within its span.
    A text of those who have come back from fighting in Iraq, and now, like that place, even here at home on an American border there begins to be erected concrete blocks (as the beginning of a longer wall?) and fundaments of each human face hiding another face that makes its suicide an embattled murder.
    Seen through the seeming omniscience of a woman hiding an even deeper withheld omniscience, this story, of mutant friendly fire, was simply plain and horrific, but it saves its last disguise as the best disguise. Or worst.

  5. RED RABBIT by STEVE RASNIC TEM
    “You can learn to live with crazy, but you can’t touch it.”
    A perfect gem is a perfect Tem.
    Old Matt and his senile-demented wife Clara, and each day a new redly flensed and flayed rabbit is left in their grounds, one she always think is the same rabbit, whilst he knows that they are different rabbits subjected to the same predator.
    Until the final rabbit, so flayed and flensed it is “in the border between dark and light”. On the brink of wonderland, I infer. Where shadows swim in shadows. Attuned more to Lewis, not Siobhan, Carroll?

  6. IT’S ALL THE SAME ROAD IN THE END by BRIAN HODGE
    “Sometimes there wasn’t even enough town to land on the map.”
    This is a long rambling but structured journey of classic horror Lovecraftian-tending, page-turning, with a Colour out of Space in Siobhan Carroll’s DUST BOWL, but now an area of America, that is either your bag to travel with or it’s not. A town like that in Golden’s Hour. Take a camera, stare at photographs, hold them properly to see what is pictured, and do not depend on digital but analog, even though you are now a Cloud Architect for IT. Whichever you choose, and my moods will differ from day to day, there are treasured moments of anxiety and poignant regret here in this work and retrocausality, and a cutting off of yourself, a self that should keep alongside the horror instead of returning to, say, your dying mother. Horror as we read it is better than being in a home where you have that disease from the Tem story, that mental kudzu, where you have enough mind left to recognise you will soon be like the other demented ones. Better a Lovecraftian effigy as bedmate than THAT. Gilead, too, is mentioned here, as nod to TED Klein. Enemy the monotony of the DustBowl trying to absorb you. One Grandad with Black Lung, that Lung from the Siobhan. But the other Granddad is the Songcatcher, as I am a Dreamcatcher? Old enough to be a Granddad. Next to this story I shall stay. Or at least part of me shall. Must get rid of my car first. Not a series of life’s motels, but a central one. Twanging my gutbucket. This my slowburn reaction. Lies are sometimes better than truths. Just one of those scabs.
    “And whatever rotted out here would rot alone.”

  7. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    FURY
    Copy numbered 102/200
    The story itself from page 5 to 15
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    “But as he watched the red scratches darken and bleed, he simply smiled –”
    This story, as its own intended discrete work of fashioning you the reader inside it even against your will, standing alone as a powerful force of a fury from the buildings or crime scenes the narrated protagonist investigates as part of his job, ‘connecting’ him to them, flattening out our real three-dimensional world of objects inside them, people, too. There is of course more to it than that, as you will find out, without my need to spoil it for you first.
    The work also connects with the connection of Alice to her own new house by a cord against her own Wyl.

  8. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    Grave Goods by Gemma Files
    “Put the pieces back together, fit them against each other chip by chip and line by line, and they start to sing.”
    In the same way as I make stories sing, I hope.
    But this story, for once, defeated me on a first reading (all my real-time reviews are based on first readings) but it defeated me in a good way. I understood none of it or I understood MORE than it meant. Nothing in between. A number of women on an archaeological dig, couched in a stunning literary style that seems to have been engrained in the very ground where they dug. An obstreperous group, debating the ethics — of preserving the bones where they lay or taking them back to the lab for further dismantlement — surrounding the sanctity of human beings or of less (or more?) than human beings that they dug up. Skeletal structures as that very debating point, even to the extent of one of the so-called woman archaeologists found to have a questionable anatomy herself – or himself?
    I was entranced by the scientific terminology, while floundering somewhere in a no-man’s-land sense of Lovecraftian horror as a cross between, from earlier in this book, Wagner’s dug stench-hole and Gavin’s creature with breasts and a comically small, stubby penis.
    “these people were barely binocular—”


  9. BETWEEN DRY RIBS by GREGORY NORMAN BOSSERT
    “I am sure I look native to their eyes, a slow local in this slow local bar that is far too busy for my peace of mind.”
    This seems aptly for me to range from the hot bar room of ‘Under The Volcano’ (that I real-time reviewed in the last few days here) a bar room where the heat simulaccentuated the sculpted ice appendage potentially to be dunked into the endless drunken drinks, FROM THAT to the real ice of Finland where the ice is subsuming us and the core now is hotness instead, hotness in the form of an intense sauna. There, the female protagonist Chloe is in Sapphic contact with another female, and the graphically described flayed and flensed male in even greater sacrificial contrast as part of their sensuality – as if a snow-white fountaining blood-red in oblique interface with the red-flensed ‘white rabbit’ in Tem earlier in this book? Tem: “in the border between dark and light”, here the border between hot and cold.
    A theme and variations upon a wonderland pitching hot against cold, in a moment of gratuitous passion.
    I am still suffering delays and mind-interference in my book reviewing.

  10. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES by Adam LG Nevill
    “So many ways to see everything. One skin and then another skin. It had made me squirm and squirt.”
    You may think this inwardly Nevill story is the Theatre of the Absurd and the Theatre of Cruelty trying to outdo each other, or a misdirected package of literature in itself, but knowing it takes place in a seaside resort similar to the one where I live makes it seem quite believable, judging by my own experience over many years, even the eating of ‘child-size vanilla ice-creams.’ Or vanevilla?
    It tells of a wedding held in a charity shop, and a man and woman relationship of attrition together as a result of this misdirected package, a story that seems more in keeping with bodily excess and manual relief as forms of concocted revenge against complete strangers and even stranger Movements of people each tantamount to a hobbyist diaspora within a ritual re-enactment of a church painting.

  11. THE HOUSE OF WONDERS by C.E. WARD
    “…a seaside town on the East Coast—the place isn’t important so I won’t mention it.”
    I have lived in such an English East Coast place for over two decades now. And such vaguebooking by this accomplished and stylish story inspires me to be equally vaguebooking in my review of this refreshingly different ambiance to some of the other tales so far in this book, a relatively comfortable story told between two gentlemen smoking, comfortable but about some ghastly events! The ambiance of the seaside place is wonderfully evoked, as is its House of Wonders with exhibits of believable ancient seaside amusement arcade machines and tableaux of gory history. I loved the way this ambiance eats into the told-about vaguebook being written ABOUT that very ambiance and then into that very book’s author’s own real life – and then into even deeper real history itself (or vice versa?)

  12. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    nullimmortalis June 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm
    THE NUMBERS by Christopher Burns
    Numbered 23 of 200, and signed.
    “…but the mist is clearing and the rising sun is the colour of a communion wafer.”
    Please note the date of this real-time review, this dreamcatcher of fiction, as if it has itself dreamcaught the spirit of this short cathartic or angry period in British political history. As if it is a sudden storm out of nothing, having begun like an episode of The Archers, with motivations as nonchalant nuances, the nagging weight of past misuderstandings or mistakes as two brothers meet unexpectedly at the whim of one of them, alongside the catalyst of the other one’s wife. Self-pity of the whimsical brother…
    And if I tell you any more, it will spoil this effectively described story of unscryable intention and poetic phrase – and spoil any shock it might or might not hold for you especially after what recently happened on the streets of Britain in recent days and whether the brother’s tontine prize is to remain or leave…

  13. BRIGHT CROWN OF JOY by LIVIA LLEWELLYN
    “….disappearing into the pale sunless mists that have muted day and lightened night. These are the birds of the world now. And they are stupendous. They are beautiful.”
    A mind-blowing variegated on-line diary fractured narrative of After, Before, After After, Memory AND the real-time of the readers reading this variegated text as we gestalt (dreamcatch) it to make sense of it, equally as mankind itself seems to be physically gestalted (dreamcaught) alongside us, a lump of togetherness to transcend our planet’s own changes? To assist the female narrative voice and the gestalting of mankind like a complex Jungian raft, there is even a “DreamCatcher App” mentioned in this fragmented text.
    Some wonderful meaty descriptions of visionary power. Beautiful and evanescent, too. And children with a form of puberty that becomes, I sense, a sort of blend of hope beyond Earth’s end and of a meaty merging physically into something, I fear, like Azathoth once at the centre of that Earth? I hope it is the former hope, not the latter merging. We would need an on-line After After After to find out which it is. Endless hawling.
    “…and endless and, and. And.”

  14. THE BEAUTIFUL THING WE WILL BECOME by KRISTI DEMEESTER
    “…every one was blank, all of that white space waiting to devour the fingers hovering over it, and I shoved the notebook under my bed.”
    Possible spoilers.
    A very powerful narration of a schoolgirl seen evocatively through a schoolgirl’s naive but still knowing eyes about her friend Katrina, with Katrina’s father becoming the sort of Azathoth I saw, joining together children, in the previous Llewellyn story (DeMeester: “A thing that had no beginning and no end, our bodies indistinguishable from the other”), here joining scissored flesh with flesh into a living surrogate doll so as to obviate child abuse. Bad to avoid worse bad? The narrator girl unloved by her own father tellingly helps the process along.
    I somehow wished this story had been left blank. But then I thought that any blank page could never have something bad on it worse than what I actually imagined to be on it. Especially when skimmed or skinned and reconstituted as this story. Too late. Once read, never to be unread until life’s final blankness. The beautiful thing we will become.

  15. WISH YOU WERE HERE by NADIA BULKIN
    “Gatot, who ran the travel agency from a tiny office in Kuta, said that he had never before seen so many fever-dreaming grief tourists as were sleep-walking through Bali today.”
    A wildly mind-zooming imaginarium as a sort of coach tour, but not as I remember such holidays where my fellow passengers were mostly taking photos, sleeping or boring me with their small talk. Protected by the windows of the vehicle.
    Here they are mulched and short-circuited into the dangers of the land itself, our world today of terrors. Reminding me of that Azathoth (or Trump?) in the previous two stories, now a proper ‘spirit-monster eco-system’ called the jelangkung, where ghost stories that the tourists amuse each other with become realler and more horrific than horror stories in horror anthologies. (Horror anthologies used to be like protected coach tours themselves until now!)
    “So now the woman knows that she’s being chased by a kuntilanak. That’s the name of the ghost. Everyone here knows what it is. She’s the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth and is searching for babies and blood in the afterlife.”
    [ Even a reference to the fate of the 27 left after the great demon Brexit sweeps through those parts of Europe I used to have coach tours of –
    “I have an idea for a scary story,” said Josh, “How about if you talk about what’s going to happen to this country once it splits into twenty-seven pieces?” ]

  16. RAGMAN by REBECCA LLOYD
    “—toby jugs, tea sets, porcelain ballerinas, and all manner of china dogs and horses, and early over-eager souvenirs from creepy seaside towns.”
    “…there’s nothing wrong with being sensitive.”
    “There is when you think a dead leaf is a mouse, or a piece of tangled thread is a spider,…”
    The “peculiar charges” of things, old toys, bric à brac, mirrors, war residuals, etc. the fermenting of an old rag and bone yard where these things are held and hopefully sold, even today with the help of photographs of its wares via a website. Here such a place reaches the apotheosis of not only CE Ward’s seaside arcades, and jellyfish seas, but also a whole panoply of imaginary companions such as the accretive Ragman and things that lurk in old mirrors, plus this book’s Azathoth effect of agglomerated Gestalt. A strange-story dark perfection, seen through the eyes of a young woman, the yardkeeper’s daughter, here to help, assess his supposedly growing old age dementia, hoping to return him to his wife and her mother, here also to stay over in the yard, to buff mirrors, to watch for the rare customer as well as for an increasing Gestalt of traditional horror distilled by Ragman in skewered union with the horror from the mirror. And her thoughts pursued by a hunting pike. And seeing a mouth like a nightjar’s beak. But that’s only scratching a surface. This is a classic of the highest rank of horror fiction. Nothing more to say.
    Other than to say that it now feels like me with my own agglomeration of years of hawling bric à brac and I wonder if my own son and daughter (and wife) thank me or curse me, as I sense this man (equally with son, daughter and wife) does, too – with a similar madness to mine. Also like searching for Hodge’s Songcatcher through a further level of the generations…
    “I won’t sell this place Katie. It’s like the inside of my own head.”

  17. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    WHAT’S OUT THERE? by Gary McMahon
    “He can’t bear to see her face, not unless it is real. A photo isn’t enough;”
    The uncertainty of ‘Uncertainties’ is also the uncertainty of not knowing how dangerously scary any of its stories is going to be, so if I say this story is VERY scary, that might be a spoiler. So, I’ll say it is a pussy-cat of a story. Well, it is that, too. One with a cat-flap and something or someone outside beyond that cat-flap once the cat has struggled in through it. And I can’t lie. It is a plainly-spoken tale of a man who works as a building surveyor, with a cat that used to belong to his deceased wife, and remembering other past events concerning animals – and now meeting someone again he used to know, the chance woman vet he now needs, all of which you expect to cohere into a sane meaningful denouement with a message to impart. If I now say ‘cohere’ is not the right word at all to describe your relationship with the ending, that may be a lie, as the cohesion here is making you regroup in face of the challenge of this story, almost a fast sudden adhesion as cohesion with the ending, as you struggle through a cat-flap of revelation to get at a meaning you know is simply there … unless it hasn’t already got your own meaning first as its own.

  18. NO MATTER WHICH WAY WE TURNED by BRIAN EVENSON
    This haunting abruptness of a faceless girl is Katie’s reflection just now in the Lloyd story and a symbol of this whole book tantalising itself. With a lodge as a blend of a chosen group and an aboded structure and a verb to position something within. Beckett reflecting Lovecraft and vice versa. Just to name two.

  19. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    THE CASTELLMARCH MAN by Ray Cluley
    “Anyone could look happy if they buried their secrets deep enough.”
    A genuinely compelling and intriguing theme and variations on the custom or game of geo-caching and a relationship on the edge, like the relationship in the Leslie story. Not quite a coat on the car’s passenger seat (see the car accident, too, in Mauro ), “not quite a tractor”, not quite the rainy Wales whence I myself have my roots, on the breaking edge of things yet again. Who ever regrets a Google-cache? A bespoke sat-nav or gps? An equine voyeur? And you’re becoming the voyeur as this pattern or gestalt of clues and caches make you the tobacco roller not your own self. This is insidiously frightening. Love the pub donkey joke, the pet Welsh phrases, fridge magnets, and knotted ropes into snakes, the whole italicised tour of tourist traps, indeed everything about this journey if not its destination, nay! Its destination, too. Its palimpsest of the present and the past.
    “Every nook and cranny of Britain held a secret, it seemed.”

  20. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…
    ——————————
    THE ICE BENEATH US by Steve Duffy
    “He’s determined to haul it on out like the biggest goddamnedest fish that was ever pulled out of an ice-hole on Bent Iron,…”
    This is a good, well-characterised, genius-localised, old-fashioned, Tem-synergous Tale of Terror…
    About two ‘old farts’ not exactly in love with each other’s company, but necessarily steeped in seasoned friendship, as they return to their fishing cabin, with all manner of hooks and lures, after, the last time when they were, experiencing a bloodily, stenchily cataclysmic meeting (now recounted in italics) with an intrusive native Indian and that native’s conjurings of a capital letter for the word ‘crow’ and somehow summoning, too, I guess, the “no-see-ums” of 9/11…?

  21. ON THESE BLACKENED SHORES by BRIAN HODGE
    “All we cared about was the wrecker big enough to handle a semi-truck, and the spooled cable it fed into the hole, and the man in coveralls riding the giant hook down, like a child standing on a swing.”
    A striking opening when seeing your son’s car vanish into a sinkhole outside your house and you could do nothing about it. The later family fretting themes on the uncertainties of his still being alive in this bottomless chasm; skiers, unlike earthers, like him always travelled downhill for safety after an accident or avalanche.
    Katee, your daughter, your son’s twin sister, is the equivalent of Katie in the Lloyd story, trying to think positive between Dad and Brother, and Mother…Ragman and our internal Miners alike.
    The situation and the history of the mine involved with this sinkhole fits in neatly with my hawling theme and with Azathoth sitting at the centre of the Earth. The longueurs and infodumps and scab-political history dumps are all forgiven because I hawled out an essential RIGHTNESS in this otherwise plainspoken workmanlike novelette as part of the context of this book. (I cannot speak for the rightness in its original book incarnation of context before being published here.)
    “There can’t be any worse feeling of failure than to reveal to your children how fallible you really are. No superhero to my son. Now, to my daughter, ineffectual before bureaucracy, and trying to use logic to get her to accept the unthinkable.”
    “Now her sketchbooks gathered dust. We’d all gone down that hole, and one way or another, had to find our way out.”
    “The uncertainties surrounding Tecumseh #24 began with the cause of the calamity.”
    From Siobhan Dust to Hodge Hawling, this anthology reaches its own “giant hook” within. Then Evenson-lodges in some part of your Azathoth soul that you did not know existed till now as a core of Uncertainties. Catching the song as well as the dream.
    And the calamity that needs healing after such hawling, the calamity that is our world today.
    Many great stories, especially the Straub, the DeMeester and the Lloyd.
    end
      

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Rift – Nina Allan

18 thoughts on “The Rift – Nina Allan

  1. Pages 7 – 32
    “, mathematics textbooks intermingled with biographies of Dickens and Einstein and Chekhov, and an opera singer called Farinelli, a castrato who was a star of Handel’s operas.”
    This is a satisfyingly chunky book with rough paper pages making me feel I am about to read a popular blockbuster I would normally eschew. But it immediately captivates me with the ‘before’ and the ‘since’ of two sisters and the older man they laughed about as young girls, a man (a maths teacher) who carried around a Japanese fish and acted or looked peculiar. The backstory is his, but it’s the girls’, too. With a sudden breach or rift where, from our point of view, one sister Julie vanishes (“Her absence defined her.”) leaving the other called Selena as if she is the on-going life of the book’s main protagonist. A life about which we learn. Including, today, watching Antiques Road Show on TV, wherein a ‘broach’ is discussed, not a ‘brooch.’
    I will not itemise the plot in detail for fear of spoilers.
    But I am already convinced this is the sort of novel I shall find both inspiring and entertaining.
  2. Pages 33 – 57
    “The lad she fancied was called Ethan Crossley. He ran cross-country instead of playing football and he was in the chess club.”
    Crossley, Cross, Chess, nothing ‘salient’ to see in that sentence except chance. Just as Julie’s vanishing without anything salient to report about the last time she was seen, to use Selena’s ‘salient’ word put in her mouth as it were by the author – or vice versa?
    The ordinary details, meanwhile, of girlhood and later life all ring true and glow beautifully, transcending such minutiae of reading. This continues captivatingly to flow along, but I wonder if there are salient things I am missing. Ordinary things that are secretly significant. The compelling character of the Russian woman who employs Selena to sell diamonds (cf the brooch earlier). S’s need to learn gemmology. Watching ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ on TV. A back office that has the feeling of arriving on another planet. How a little unnoticed thing could change a whole gestalt. Or a big thing like Julie vanishing. Or finding that she hadn’t vanished at all?
    I find myself in suspense to read the next chapter straightaway. A good sign. (I am however eking out my savouring of this book.)
  3. Pages 58 – 87
    “Like pressing a button and sending time forward. The things we normally never notice, because they happen so slowly.”
    As you can see, I could not resist taking up this book again today. Absolutely absorbed by the considerations of meeting someone you were so close to a couple of decades ago, scrying the differences, toying with the guiltiness you could thrust upon them, all interspersed with regrouping in your mind the whodunnit circumstances surrounding the original rift and comparing them with what now fills the rift.
    The present and the absent that define our Earth planet as Raft. My thought, not the book’s.
    I am thoroughly grabbed by this book. But I am still determined to allow things to happen slowly, reasons for whatever caused things to happen in the past to evolve even if they never happened at all?
    I almost imagined weeping at the mention of the coq au vin that may have been thrown in the bin all those years before….
  4. Pages 87 – 115
    “There would always be that gap.”
    Selena watches vaguely hopeful salient documentaries relevant to kidnapping, distaff slavery, those famous cases of which we are all aware, as in some hopeful vaguebooking connection with the Julie ‘jump’ as it were. As well as our following Selena’s scavenging the salvage of a dead Dad’s detritus. His own wild Valiant Razalia investigations (btw, that excellent diptych novel of a box of SF or Fortean documents may well be connected to this novel?), her deceased Dad’s attempts to explicate the Julie glitch, Julie-then, Julie-now, that even with her return has not yet been solved. Her own deceased Dad’s shortcomings. I, too, as a Dad myself, have much detritus for my kids to clear up! This book so far is a personal journey as well as a great novel in itself. Survivor guilt, notwithstanding. Select a future. Xenometallurgy. Scheisse. One learns a lot from a simple following of this novel. Becoming one with documentary parts of someone’s gestalt now being hawled away in a skip or jump. Trapped in or abducted from the wrong life?
    “Fish tank/aquarium, plastic (1)”
  5. Pages 116 – 132
    It seems right to fall asleep on a phone to someone on the other side of this Earth, as long as the other one realises and hangs up. The “tiny salient detail” was that he was there and not here. He was a bit of an intrusion, for me, anyway, Selena’s ex called Johnny unexpectedly ringing her from Kuala Lumpur. As a reader, I want to keep Selena to myself. Intrigued as I am by her investigating her late Dad’s Brillo box of documents, one of which documents seems to prove something about her sister’s state of being ‘missing’ (a word weighed like a stone ready for skimming)?
    picnicWe now reach a part of the book that’s headed ‘A Voyage to Arcturus’, this being a book I read in my younger days and can remember little about. The author was David Lindsay I recall. But there follows a mention of a film I know well, the one called ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ (there was a significant split rock in Lowry’s UNDER THE VOLCANO that I finished reviewing only a few days ago) and I now I magine the rift in a hanging rock where the girls vanished, a hiatus, a breach, a broach, a breeches birth, all of the things that the film of ‘Picnic’ summons up, with my once having real-time reviewed the actual book here, the book that preceded that film, the book, yes, by Joan LINDSAY!
    Real-time reviewing in Hanging Rock time…
  6. Pages 133 – 164
    “I know you won’t believe me, but I’m going to tell you anyway: on Saturday July 16th…”
    You will believe me, however, by just glancing above at the date, that this is 15th July. And I wondered if I had skipped or jumped or leap-frogged a day, too, a day early. But then I realised that today IS a Saturday, after all, just a glitch away from the truth, then.
    And I imagine a world as convincingly studied and constructed as the Dream Archipelago, but of course different to those islands, if aligned to a similar world by means of a rift to a rift, and again different for every reader by means of the day they decide to read these pages? Entering these pages is like Julie entering her own ‘missing’ story. A story or stone poised to be skimmed like a star or several stones or stars, derived from a simple childhood phobia of black holes? One star where she now lands as if from rift to rift? Raft to raft. Each a Venn diagram. Selena, as reader now, listens silently to the new constructed world. A gradual of salient realisation.
    “There was a strange word printed across it – Marillienseet – and a tiny delicate engraving of a fish.” Contains the word ‘salient.’ And evokes Kayleigh. Also, I have mentioned in many earlier gestalt real-time reviews my phobia that books change their text overnight when resting.
  7. Pages 165 – 205
    “How do you know which books will turn out to be important to you, until you’ve encountered them?”
    Some books, for me, are parthenogenetic like creefs, growing inside you until they take you over.
    I am not sure yet whether this book has yet entered my own rift as a creef, but it’s certainly one where its gestation is a gestaltion in the terms of my real-time reviewing, where cohering or hawling, as I call it, extracts from the creef of an alternate world (although alternate world is the wrong expression) is taking over this book by dint of other books’ fragments (with build up of alien characters and sexual longings) and Julie’s inter-narration for her sister Selena, a sister who she tells someone in the creef book is a brother! We learn about the shimmer between the creef book within the book that is my creef book, a shimmer between the creef world and the world where Julie lives in Coventry, estranged from her family, living there with her sexual longings, Sapphic ones, etc.
    And I’ve not even mentioned Urfe Station. I used to run a sort of pirate radio station in my waking-dreams mind as a child, and that was years before Radio Caroline started in 1964 near to where I lived then!
    I am still suffering delays in my reviewing.
  8. Pages 206 – 234
    Is it an accident that the word ‘creef’ rhymes with ‘grief ‘ and the two words are used here in one sentence? Followed closely by a sentence where ‘creef’ and ‘rife’ are included? So I was not surprised that there shortly followed a sentence with ‘creef’ and ‘rift’ included. It seems this is writing itself, para-story within para-story within para-story, the deepest within including a ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ type enacted coitus of three as if writing about imagining your own participation in it is tantamount to creating it for real. Imagining the couple in actual coitus as siblings? A fiction that builds truth in this way travels back through levels of retrocausal belief and disbelief. Deploying the tragedies and joys of life’s relationships as a complex piece of word music. I personally factor in things like the red coated girl from Schindler’s List (a film that is mentioned) and a passing reference to ‘The Birds’ reminding me of ‘Don’t Look Now’. I also remember mention of Coventry Cathedral and now a pendant with the visually disturbing creature within it that is given to Julie, a pendant that one day may appear on the ‘Antiques Road Show’, or visualising Julie coming out of the dramatic clouds (as someone famous she is made to resemble) in ‘Stars in Their Eyes’? Like and unalike equally helping to form a gestalt of fictional truth by creef accretion.
  9. Pages 235 – 262
    “Would a monster feel excited by its victim’s terror, or sick to its stomach? Sick at the thought of the things it’s going to have to do before its prey stops screaming.”
    We return to that day in July, a few days ago, that was also so significant to me, as it was to Julie. As we follow Julie, masquerading under the name Selena, submitting herself to a sort of voluntary abduction by a man in a van. But that of course is not the whole story, with disingenuous links (by the omniscient freehold author trying to reclaim her text?) to previous musical and other tropes. I am withholding certain things as gestalt reviewer, until I can summarise the whole gestalt without revealing blatant plot spoilers, but I must mention, vis à vis the Fish trope, a new reference, one to Ted Hughes’ poem Pike. I know a tench is not a pike, but they are similar. One of the most significant questions in literature: “Is it a Tench?” as asked by John Cowper Powys in his ‘Glastonbury Romance’, who himself, judging by that novel, had inferred abductive links with alien worlds aloft. There is also a ‘story’ shown to us disingenuously by the freehold author, one that Julie wrote at college, reminding me (if my memory is good enough?) of some of Nina Allan’s own early 20th century themes in some previous works I have reviewed. I hope I am not astray here, too.
    As an aside among many others I could bring to your attention, Julie’s sexuality as a young girl is central to this work, and here in parallel with that visualisation in an inner book of this book I mentioned above, she visualises her best girl friend with an ‘angel’ boy.
  10. Pages 263 – 285
    I am glad the book now links Julie’s ‘alien’ pendant with the Antiques Road Show as I did earlier! Selena’s persecution or anxiety dreams following Julie’s story will, I guess, haunt my own now. The documentary evidence from newspapers etc. as to Julie’s ‘abduction’ or, even, once suspected murder, and the whodunnit list of possible culprits and their motives and passions are ideal for a gestalt real-time review as this book itself is a gestalt real-time review. Since I have been doing these since 2008, I have been wondering whether they have influenced any writers in the way they write books? Andy Cox has already publicly said that they influence the way he programmes the various stories in his magazine anthologies, Black Static and Interzone …. both of those magazine titles, incidentally, being attuned to the Rift itself? And Nina Allan writes wonderful articles for Interzone.
    Meanwhile, we wonder if Julie’s story about alien abduction is madness or guile, Valiant Razalia or Narnia, mysticism of Powys or just a fiction mystery? Marillions or Millions, Black Holes or Birds on thrumming wires. Stars in their Eyes or Blind Date.
    Is it a Tench or Pike? Picnic the film or Picnic the book? (The latter has an alternative last chapter that is not in the film.)
  11. Pages 286 – 320
    “…a difficult image to dispel once it had wandered in.”
    Or creefed in? You begin to know that feeling, particularly with this book. And with the books and stories or documents within it. A feeling later now containing the question of whether madness is catching. There is a moment in these latest pages which is shocking, a moment of declaration with regard to missing people and then finding these missing people again, shocking, yet I now realise that I half-expected it. However deadpan events become, however deadpan they are described, they can still conceal a packed punch. The sax riff bleeding into the outer edges of the Milky Way, notwithstanding. Soapstone box or rosebush, too. (That’s rosebush, not rosebud to which it just autocorrected.) Sapphic manipulation or no intimacy whatsoever. An alien that might be me. Watching a video on tuna fish.
  12. Pages 321 – 352
    “She speaks in the same offhand way as when she was telling me about the silverwing. It is as if she is tired of telling her story, bored with it, almost.”
    From a reminder of the older man (maths teacher) at the beginning of this book with the Koi Carp (a fish, I gather, with my own review pride, very related to the Tench!) and a reference to watching a film about a shoe, a film somehow that vaguely reminds me of a stray shoe in “Number 9″… we reach another document, the diary of the xenometallurgist woman (friend of Selena’s Russian boss), passages that represent one of those reading experiences that is completely compelling and unputdownable, as Julie takes the pendant to show this woman…however deadpan or ‘offhand’ Julie’s delivery, complete with throwaway mention of Shoe Lake….
    The Jewellery Orphans, notwithstanding,
    • I am seriously beginning to think this book is what JCP had preternaturally in mind when he asked “Is it a Tench?” in a 1933 published book of Mystic connection from stars to man and back again.
  13. Pages 353 – 384
    “…each a single second’s reminder of a world that has vanished or of a future that can now never happen.”
    The relationship between the sisters, Selena and the rediscovered Julie, ebbs and flows as does our knowledge of the skimmed ‘missing’ of Julie, and Selena’s Russian lady’s backstory factored into an evocative visit to Amsterdam, a city with an alien feel in itself. All intriguing grist to the mill of accretive various general connections and fishy tropes (catfish and rainfish being too close to comfort for me to tench in my own believability of alien forces at work even here in my gestalt review let alone in the book itself!) Grist or rift, as we retrack to the genius loci of the lake where Julie was said to be rifted all those years ago…
    I envy people like Selena and her Mum in their ordinary world beyond the reach of such rifts and tenches. It’s a burden for me to carry: a too easy believability in self and in preternaturalism, which essentially this book, for me, is about. I wish I could make do with just ‘movie versions’ of life. (Cf Picnic with Picnic, though.) Movies with found-footage wobbly lenses, et al. Sleeping Beauty, notwithstanding. Hansel and Gretel, creefing back?
    Video of carp, tench, pike and catfish: https://youtu.be/U0mXonA9npo
    “Could a story change a place?”
  14. Pages 384 – 418
    “The lay-by was dank, greenish-grey, edged with trees. A nowhere place.”
    A nowhere book, too? The gestalt of various documents as well as more wrap-around narrative and collation by the freehold author, about the two sisters, the ‘missing’ of one of them skimmed fictionally at us like a stone or planet, a perfect balance of possibilities as to what really happened, none of which I shall divulge here. I sense this is the optimum book for which my hawling, my dreamcatching, my gestalt real-time reviewing techniques and (dare I say?) skills have been deployed since 2008. I have been waiting for it. Maybe it has somehow been waiting for me. Ricocheted towards me at the right time, at the precise moment of potential rift in my own life. A rift now hopefully healed. At least for a precious while. That mention of Mr Rustbucket, notwithstanding.
    This is a nowhere book, “a nothing-looking volume […] that falls down the back of the shelf without you realising,” falling there despite its blockbuster substance of physique, but, equally, somehow I know or at least imagine its freehold narrative force is of alien birth itself. Born from and with True Grit. And a book indeed of substance, collated by connections. Rift and trench.
    “Until all the the appropriate tests have proved positive, the identity of the substance you have in front of you remains open-ended, a series of probabilities.”
    end