Understated, refined horror with flickers of evil here and there; brooding psychological undercurrents that acknowledge humanity as miniscule, uncertain, mortal, weak and powerless. These are writing elements used by Dan Chaon that make his book an eclectic, inscrutable, deeply disturbing experience and truly a read to remember --- much like the great works of timeless horror masters Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock.
"Chaon’s prose is somewhat casual, yet not a single word feels out of place or unnecessary. This is an intense, merciless and exciting read."
A dozen short stories are told here relating somehow to death and its gloomy aftermath, each disturbing demise beginning innocently enough with a rotten seed that breaks open, animated somewhere deep in the mind by the merest suggestion of evil. The subjects of the stories sense an outside sinister presence just beyond the plane of their own human understanding, igniting an inner monstrosity that feeds on fear and despair.
As a fully realized writer, Chaon has the power to make humanity into a dim, probing communal experience. Readers will relate to his characters eagerly and question what anyone could do in their situation, how a simple human being could handle these intense feelings of inescapability and guilt, how anyone could possibly comprehend the complicated tragedies that engulf them. Chaon’s stories represent a diverse collection that portrays humanity as the epitome of psychological mystery.
As a sample, take Chaon’s first tale, “The Bees,”a story thatcenters on an otherwise happy child who has a very common condition: night terrors. Frankie’s dreams haunt his parents and occupy their minds more than they do his own, sending the family to his pediatrician repeatedly only for the child to be given a clean bill of health. Having no recollection of his own dreams or the confusing omens he voices after, Frankie is connected through his subconscious to a presence that reminds him of buzzing bees. Watching the boy shake and scream every night as he sleeps, his father is duly alarmed and senses the same things his son speaks of; alone or in the wee hours, he feels he cannot escape premonitions that something hunts them.