Spencer (The Ocean and All Its Devices, 2005, etc.), best known for his Lovecraft-ian tales, offers an intriguing collection of nine stories and one poem.
In “The Tenth Muse,” an author, Marshall Harrison, is invited to interview the famously reclusive Morton Sky, whose only novel became an instant classic when it was published. Marshall’s family lived next door to Sky when he was a child, and he’s excited to speak with someone he so admired, but Marshall must confront the darkness in his own past, and Sky, desperate to write something new, will do anything for inspiration. The oddly sweet, fairy-tale flavored “Come Lurk With Me and Be My Love” features a man named Wally Bennett, who falls for a beautiful girl named Flower, and she’s not quite what she seems. Wally will follow her anywhere, even to her ancient father’s lair deep inside a mountain, bringing new meaning to “will do anything for love.” In the genuinely creepy “Penguins of the Apocalypse,” an alcoholic father is approached by Derrick Thorn, a “large pear-shaped man, smooth-faced, hairless as a cave salamander,” whose “face [is] oddly blurred.” Thorn offers up a bargain, setting off a chain of catastrophic events. Is he real or imagined? That’s for readers to decide. “Stone and the Librarian” is a fever dream that will delight fans of classic lit. A being called the Librarian, a shadowy figure from the future, insists society has been brought down because of a lack of empathy and the “absence of humanity” and that salvation lies only in works of great literature. A world of zeppelins and old-fashioned adventure awaits readers in “The Dappled Thing," and Spencer gets back to his Lovecraft-ian roots in “How the Gods Bargain,” “Usurped,” and the poem “The Love Song of A. Alhazred Azathoth.” The title story is a terrifying and poignant tale of an unconventional therapist whose new patient awakens something in him, resulting in salvation for them both.
Spencer is a heck of a storyteller and has an undeniable way with words. A very readable collection of oddities from a pro, sure to please old fans and new readers alike.