Month: November 2013

HOUSE OF RAIN

Gordon Cole, Viet Nam vet and recent widower, witnesses the savage beating of a homeless man—a catalyst for Gordon’s coming encounter with his own violent past. Aging and nearly broke, Gordon wanders the streets of an urban nightmare, confined by a never-ending rain. Are the whispers and glimpses of horror real? What about the angelic singing in the distance? Gordon wrestles with past and present sins while unfolding a mystery. What happened with the woman he met in a bar fifty years earlier? What part did those events play in his marriage?

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Gordon’s best friend Harry tries to help, but Gordon might well be insane. Or damned.

Greg F. Gifune’s House of Rain (DarkFuse, 2013) is a novella, one of the most artful, brilliant pieces of fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Let me state this up front—Gifune is an incredible writer. House of Rain is ,by turns, heartbreaking, frightening and truly disturbing.

There are two narratives at play in the tale—the external story (the plot) and the internal story (the character arc). Gordon doesn’t take care of himself. He grieves for his loving wife Katy. And he smokes too much dope. Gordon’s external story begins to blur with his internal one, until Gordon is unable to reliably sort out the difference between what is real and what is surreal.

Though the plot races like a trip hammer, I found myself more engrossed in what the story’s events meant for Gordon Cole. The level of characterization in the story was a dark joy, allowing Gifune to pack each moment of this short tale with doubled and tripled meaning.

One warning—House of Rain is open-ended. Those readers who demand a neat conclusion to a tale might be frustrated. I have my own interpretation of the ending—the result of a close second reading. (Yes, I read the book twice.) Released from the tyranny of “what happened,” I was able to focus on “what it meant.” And I’ll be reading this story again. I can’t think of a greater compliment to offer a writer. (Five stars out of five)

LURKER

Lurker

Meg and Harry have lost a baby. Looking for a fresh start, they move to a cottage on the northeast coast of England. Harry continues working, but Meg needs time to heal. She spends her days gardening and exploring the ancient shoreline. On one of her walks, she comes across an old mine entrance from the eighteenth century. The discovery fires her imagination. What kind of lives did the mineworkers and their families have?

When a local woman disappears, Meg begins to struggle with bad dreams. Is she just imagining the night visits that leave tiny hand printsL on the outer wall of her cottage? Her husband commutes, immersed in a dour project—staff reduction at his place of employment. Just when Meg needs him most, Harry is gone, both physically and emotionally.

But Meg may not be entirely alone…

Gary Fry’s horror novella Lurker (DarkFuse Publishing, 2013) is part social critique, part psychological study and part Lovecraftian mystery. Fry integrates these three elements into an eerie, thought-provoking nightmare. Lurker caught me by surprise several times. (I suppose I might have anticipated the turns, but I was too busy enjoying the story.) Fry’s “monster” is a masterful piece of imagination—genuinely disturbing.

One small quibble: I found the story slow going at first. Fry’s opening prose is very British, relying on a distancing combination of understatement and exposition. But it didn’t require much patience to get to the good stuff. And the good stuff is so very worth the effort. Available as an eBook download. (Five stars out of five)