A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL by John Hornor Jacobs
Kirkus Star

A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two lush, sprawling novellas that are nothing like each other except that they’re both scary as hell.

Arkansas-based novelist Jacobs (Infernal Machines, 2017, etc.) is a wildly diverse writer whose work ranges from the teen-oriented Incarcerado trilogy to a wetwork nightmare zombie survival epic (This Dark Earth, 2012). Like some of his contemporaries, Jacobs is stretching his talents and imagination like never before, turning in two spectacular novellas. After a glowing foreword by Jacobs' fellow fabulist Chuck Wendig, the book launches into The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky, a Lovecraft-ian horror story set in a fictionalized South American nation. In it, a young academic named Isabel Certa becomes involved with a famous one-eyed poet named Rafael Avendaño, a cavalier scoundrel who’s heading into a war zone, leaving Isabel money, his apartment, and a cat for her protection as well as an obsession-inducing poem called “A Little Night Work” that Isabel spends all her time translating. The story is operatic in scale while the flavor leans closer to Roberto Bolaño or the weirdness of César Aira than the traditional horror genre. Then there's the chill-inducing, artfully paced My Heart Struck Sorrow, in which we’re introduced to Cromwell, a librarian from the Library of Congress who specializes in oral tradition—and is suffering extreme shame about cheating on his wife. Through sheer coincidence, he accidentally stumbles upon a long-hidden treasure trove of blues recordings from the 1930s. Along with his assistant, Hattie, “Crumb,” as she calls him, delves into the strange recordings and diary of Harlan Parker, a researcher much like himself who becomes obsessed with performances of the murder ballad “Stagger Lee.” Falling somewhere between House of Leaves (2000) and The Blair Witch Project, it is a terrifying, gothic descent into madness.

This book has a fitting title if there ever was one, and these nightmares are worth every penny.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-288082-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2019