Sunday, July 01, 2012

Book Review - Windeye by Brian Evenson

Brian Evenson
Trade Paperback
188 pages
Advance Reader’s Copy – Uncorrected Galley
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Publication date: June 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1566892988


      Windeye, a new short story collection by noted horror author Brian Evenson, is a thoroughly enjoyable read filled with spine-tingling horror, dark humor, and that just- beneath-the-surface element of doom that every good horror writer tries to capture. Evenson does so and in buckets-full. The terror he invokes, however, is not provoked by a gore-fest or through shock-and-awe. His is a thinking man’s fear. By that I mean there are multiple layers of dread in the majority of stories found in this anthology. The deeper you delve into that mine the darker it will become.

     You know the writer’s saying “show them don’t tell them”? Evenson shows his readers enough to scare the hell out of them and then pulls back just enough to allow their own imaginations to finish the job. Spooky, creative, and down-right sinister which is, I expect, exactly what he was aiming for.

      The stand-out stories in the collection are: The Process, Legion, The Sladen Suit, The Absent Eye, Grottor, and Anskan House. A brief description of each story follows. (Note: In my opinion, The Absent Eye, Legion, and The Sladen Suit would have made awesome Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes.)

      In the title story Windeye, a child is stolen, drawn into an unexplained place in a haunted house, and her entire existence erased. If not for the brother who remembers her she would simply be a forgotten footnote in someone else’s reality.

      The Second Boy is a supernatural tale about a ghost that refuses to let go of life and the story he tells to be repeated round the campfire.

      In The Process, sometimes the only way to break a political tie in a post-apocalyptic world is to remove someone from the opposition.

      And, something was made forfeit when humans lost communion with the simple honey bee in the short vignette, A History of the Human Voice. Can it ever be regained?

     In Dapplegrim when your inheritance is possessed by a demon the very last thing you want to do is piss it off…

     The Angel of Death follows a company of ghosts awaiting one man to record their names in the book of the dead so that they may rest.

     In The Dismal Mirror when you make a deal with death you better be prepared to make the final payment.

      In Legion a robot finds a stray human arm at work one day (how it got there is interesting) and grafts it to a sensor plate. Only then does it discover true consciousness. How long afterwards do you think it takes to learn the difference between power and weakness, master and slave? Legion is a story with a powerfully shocking surprise ending.

     Murder Inc. has nothing on the Organization. The Moldau Case is a procedural with not one but three murders, one after another upon another.

     Is The Sladen Suit an entry point to an alternative universe? During a long storm at sea starving sailors discover another world in a Sladen suit. But what lies on the other side?

     Hurlock's Law – Is Hurlock from an alternative universe? Or, has he just disappeared into one? And why won’t the construct respond?

     Falling out of time (everything skews out of synch and there’s a Discrepancy in time) can have disastrous side effects.

      Forensic evidence uncovers the Knowledge that two corpses killed each other. How is it they were found miles apart? Evenson’s clear argument as to why he hasn’t written a detective novel yet.

      Baby or Doll - Would you question your sanity if you were stuck between alternate worlds?

      Is The Tunnel a metaphor for the journey into the afterlife? Or is it a supernatural story of fear and trepidation? The Tunnel is a spooky and disconcerting tale.

      South of the Beast gives new meaning to the term suffering poet. More prose than narrative South of the Beast has the flavor of contemporary poetry while telling a tale of loneliness and agony. Of all the characters in Windeye the tormented poet here may be the one that suffers the most.

       The Absent Eye is a metaphysical look (pardon the pun) at a physical presence. What if our spirits, our very souls were slightly malignant and sentient in their own right? What if your soul questioned where it went after death and then tried to find out?

      There is no more humorous story here than Bon Scott: The Choir Years. An enterprising rock journalist discovers secret information outing the late lead singer of AC/DC as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But did Bon Scott sing in the Mormon Choir and was his death really a horrible accident? Evenson has an interesting take on a very weird conspiracy theory. The really eerie thing about this story is that it rings true.

      In Tapadera a murdered boy just won’t stop knocking to be let into the house he was thrown out of. Some unusual methods are employed by the killers to keep him out. But getting rid of a living-dead body is not an easy task.

       A soldier’s ear, lost in a horrific battle, is replaced with The Other Ear of a dead man. Where is that voice coming from? And, why has it lead him to the graveyard?

      In They a man commissioned to discover who is murdering his client, over and over again, faces an eyeless, faceless opponent.

      Unable to comprehend the reality of his hallucinatory world a man sets out looking for answers. What do you do when The Oxygen Protocol is initiated and oxygen and water start to run out? If you’re playing it smart you let the machines put you on life support until the situation improves. What if you couldn’t let them do it to you? Would you sacrifice the resources of the group for yourself or would you comply?

       The Drownable Species – In true tradition of Edgar Allen Poe one man’s hallucinatory search for a missing brother, and the uncommon death’s of his parents, uncovers a sinister evil lurking from within. What if your perceived family were really your victims?

      Grottor, Lovecraftian in design, gives whole new meaning to the phrase “a wolf in grandmother’s clothing.”

      At Anskan House be very, very careful what you wish for.

4 out of 5 stars

(Rated S for suggestive evil and inevitable chills.)

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Complete Short Story “Windeye“

Author’s Webpage

The Brooklyn Rain Review

Brian Evenson Interview

Brian Evenson’s Music Play-List for Windeye

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