In the Night Wood – Dale Bailey

In the Night WoodIn the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book does everything I want a haunting story to do: echoes and parallels; allusions and mash-ups of ancient sinister figures; the blurring of lines between grief and madness; the uncovering of old family secrets; history recent and ancient repeating itself again and again; shadows and dread and a legacy of darkness.

This is one of the few stories meditating on stories I’ve enjoyed in quite a while, because it focuses on the stories and not the storyteller or the act of telling the story. This focus keeps the story from becoming another self-indulgent meditation on the act of writing, keeps it in the realm of horror as the character realizes he’s just another turn on an inexorable wheel. Such an effective use of the ouroboros motif.

I’ve been equally fascinated and unsettled by the horned king/erl-king/Cernunnos/Herne since I first read about them years ago. Bailey crafts a wonderfully sublime threat from what little we know of these mythic figures.

I didn’t want this book to end, I enjoyed reading it so much.

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Mapping the Interior – Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the InteriorMapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much packed into such a small, unsettling space. Jones walks the line so many attempt in stories like this, the ambiguity of is-it-real or is-it-all-in-their-mind. Junior’s child logic keeps us wondering through nail-biting confrontations with the thing that might be the ghost of his father, or might be his own mind’s efforts to impose meaning and logic on meaningless and illogical things. The gritty reality of the story is so grounding, you don’t even realize its true horror until the end, where you see what lies within Junior, that neither Junior nor Dino ever really grow up or truly leave that house, never escape the legacies that made them. The layering of meaning and metaphor in this novella is masterful.

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