Martin’s debut collection amasses 12 horror tales featuring surreal creatures and discombobulating dream worlds.
The book opens with “A Girl and Her Dog,” which follows high schooler Cassie and her beloved collie, Daniel. A strange woman, whom Cassie refers to as “Old Crone,” convinces her that when Daniel shakes in his sleep, it means that “the Evil Man” is tormenting him in his dreams. She urges Cassie to wake the dog during his nightmares, and this leads to the young woman having an unexpected encounter. Other characters in other stories enter dreamlike or hallucinatory states, as well; in both “Sensoria” and “Grass,” the protagonists’ drug use offers a possible explanation for their respective visons of an undead man and a green, slimy monster. The author shows a distinct H.P. Lovecraft influence; “Resonator Superstar!” and “The Prince of Lyghes” even originally appeared in Lovecraft-themed anthologies. However, all the stories here display the author’s knack for indelible, unnerving passages. In “The Prince of Lyghes,” for instance, a woman is shocked by an assortment of caged, eccentric beasts: “Some spread razorblade teeth and sashayed left to right on scaly chicken-like legs that weren’t quite in the right places.” Many tales have supernatural elements (magic in “Jehessimin”; a ghost in “Window”), but others have more tangible monsters, such as an abundance of boxelder bugs in “Boisea Trivittata.” The book’s highlight is “The Un-Bride or No Gods and Marxists,” a clever play on the real-life origin of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which sprang from a conversation with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. In Martin’s tale, Hollywood actress Elsa Lanchester relates her own story of bringing the dead back to life, addressing it to her actor spouse, Charles Laughton, and Frankenstein film director James Whale.
Potent, memorable stories that will fluster some readers and terrify others.