So, let’s talk about horror fiction. Let’s assume that, like me, you enjoy horror fiction – books, movies, what have you. Tell me now, how do you like your horror fiction? The gist of my question is whether you prefer your horror scary, yet ending on a note of triumph, or bleak, with every twist or turn leading down a dark, dangerous alley and nary a happy ending in sight? If it’s the former, well, more power to you. If it’s the latter, Aniko Carmean’s Stolen Climates is for you; at least, I know it was for me, but I generally like my fiction with a side of bleak.
Stolen Climates introduces us to Genny, her husband Malcolm, and their daughter Linnae. The family is house-hunting in the small Texas town of Breaker (think Troll 2’s Nilbog crossed with Twin Peaks). They endure the house shopping tour from hell, rejecting increasingly disturbing houses as their real estate agent takes them on a tour of rural decay. In a rush, the family finally decides on the last house, a place called The Argentine that was essentially abandoned by its previous occupants and shows some disturbing accommodations, such as metal shutters that are to be lowered at night and an ax covered in old blood.
From there, the craziness increases exponentially, encompassing the strange occupants of the only hotel in town, the proprietor of the only diner in town, and a pair of odd twins. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the seeming oddity of the townsfolk becomes a bit clearer as the novel proceeds, reaching a nice, logical – though heartbreaking – crescendo. Let me warn you, though, the book became almost impossible to put down during the second half.
I’ve seen this novel compared to the original Wicker Man, and while that might seem like high honors (and it is), it’s far from hyperbole. I got a very similar vibe reading through it from outsiders looking in on the seemingly odd ways of an ancient order all the way to the circumstances that surround the family. I can’t say too much else without spoiling it, but if you liked Wicker Man you should like this.
My only quibble is that the family acts a bit odd themselves at the beginning of the novel. It’s a little confusing and at times I felt like the family must have something else going on as well – it’s still a little hard to understand why they stay with their house hunting after their initial few houses are such abysmal places, but that question had been long forgotten by the end of the book. It’s a very minor false note, and didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all.
This book also does not pull its punches whatsoever, and I love it for that. I’ve seen too many horror novels and movies recently pull back at the moment where good, compentent horror should be pressing the point, bloody and/or gory as that point might be. Stolen Climates has no such compunctions and the author clearly knows what makes for good horror. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it. For my money, I’ll never look at a breakfast burrito in quite the same way.
Overall, I recommend Stolen Climates without hesitation. Ms. Carmean shows that she not only has great influences but can also pull forth fresh life and ideas from those influences. That really sums up my experience with this novel: fresh, yet familiar, and I think that’s one of the best things that a story can do. She’s currently working on a new series, and I’m excited to see what comes next.
Today, of course, is Monday, and Monday is the day when we update Found Music – at least, for now. This week I’m bringing you a two-fer of EPs that focus on a 90s sound:
It’s EP week again, kiddies! I figured it was only fair to give you a couple of different options since there’s a good chance I won’t be able to update next week (trip to Las Vegas – wedding – long story). Thankfully, these are both pretty good EPs.
You can go check out Inward Eye and Skiploader now.