Regular readers of TeleRead will probably have seen by now coverage of Canadian dark fiction author Simon Strantzas. His latest collection, Burnt Black Suns from Hippocampus Press, is doing a good job of confirming him as one of the premier writers in the field. He has written very well and eloquently elsewhere on the current state of dark fiction and horror, and here is his latest creative contribution to the debate.

This is a collection that is very much about variety, as well as some very assured paying of dues and tributes. “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine” is a homage to Robert W. Chambers and the sub-mythos  of the King in Yellow. “One Last Bloom” is closer to conventional gray goo sci-fi, throwing in some biting satire on academia for good measure. “Strong as a Rock” lies in a very disturbing place somewhere between Laird Barron and Thomas Ligotti, with the wilderness terror of one and the creepy disintegration of the other. “By Invisible Hands” brings as much existential disquiet to the theme of puppetry as Ligotti or Adam Nevill ever could. “On Ice” is more straight Lovecraftian fiction, as well as the kind of icebound tale that a Canadian can pull off best. There is even the (very occasional) touch of grim humor, as in “Thistle’s Find.” And the title story is not the kind that any parent or expectant mother could read with an easy stomach.

I don’t want to give the impression that these stories are all conceived in the shadow of other tales or writers, though. They succeed on their own merits and wear their own dark shadows well. “What pushes the genre forward (or, rather, outward) is not repetition of the past, but innovations toward the future,” Strantzas has said. These are some of his gestures towards the future. Read and enjoy – if you can enjoy being scared and profoundly disturbed.

TeleRead Rating: 4 e-readers out of 5



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