Search This Blog

1.28.2011

Loathsome, Dark and Deep

I really enjoyed Loathsome, Dark and Deep, from Belfire Press. Here's the review I put up on Amazon a short time ago:

Speculative fiction fans have been reading Aaron Polson's excellent short stories for years now. They've been rewarded with sharp insights into the human condition, vibrant prose, and some genuinely scary narratives.

So it should come as no surprise that those elements translate well into his most recent effort in the long form, Loathsome, Dark & Deep.

Polson teams with Belfire Press to produce an attractive book. The simplicity in design (I really like the understated chapter headings) suits the story well, as this is a gritty narrative of determination and perseverance--Polson's artful spin on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

Narrated in the first-person, this is the story of Henry Barlow, a reluctant hero charged with the unenviable task of trekking deep into the Oregon forests to investigate a group of mad men. As an Oregon native, I really enjoyed my trip back to the damp climes of the old stomping grounds. Even while reading this in sunny Florida, I felt the cold in my bones.

Characterization is keen: I studied his face, carrying the hypnotic tranquility of the river to the minute criss-cross of scars. They looked almost like sutures, that Silas had been stitched together from several different men, that his face was patched together as a quilt of skin. For the first time, I felt uneasy around Silas--a cold, crawling sensation slid across the back of my neck.

The voice is well-suited to the post-Civil War setting. Barlow's descriptions and dialogue are concise and clear, and the central conflict of the task is harrowing. Let's just say that the ruined men don't provide the makings of pleasant dreams (...I wouldn't believe men could climb out of the river and try to bite my face off, neither. But that sure as hell happened this morning, didn't it?).

Dark literature with a dash of suspense, this one is well worth your time...

2 comments:

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks, Daniel. I'm glad you enjoyed it. (and I was close enough with the imagery to make you think of "home")

Daniel W. Powell said...

I enjoyed the mish-mash of plot developments (cool blend of history and horror), and you did a good job capturing the atmosphere of that part of the world. Lewis and Clark didn't call it Cape Disappointment for nothing at all!

I'll bring my copy to work and pass it along to the right student when the opportunity presents itself. I like to get viral with my reading habits!