Top critical review
It's a fun read with some issues
Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2018
I've had my eye on this book for a long time. I don't know why I waited so long, but I finally bit the bullet and purchased this novella. Though it wasn't up to my expectations, I enjoyed it nevertheless.
A U.S. government operative meets with a woman in a diner somewhere in the southeast of California. They're there to exchange information regarding some horrific event that occurred a couple of days earlier. From there, we get a story about the usual Cthulhu-esque suspects. Mad cults? Check. Creepy Tomes? Double Check. Creepy, disgusting body horror? Holy Crap, yes!
The story, once you get past certain issues, held my attention well enough. I don't want to say too much beyond the presence of the usual Lovecraftian motifs as it might spoil an already short story. One positive is that the plot moves forward (or backward, if you know what I mean) quickly enough. You don't have a lot of deep characterization or introspection, which is, in my opinion, a good thing.
That said, I'm hesitant to call this Lovecraftian fiction. Sure the usual motifs are present, but that sense of cosmic horror and insignificance that the master did so well is conspicuously absent.
The two (maybe three) main characters aren't too bad. There's the FBI agent, the weird creepy girl with time-gazing(?)/time-travelling powers, and the victim of a creepy cult leader. There's really nothing special and nothing too deep about any of these characters, which, as I said above, is honestly a good thing. It keeps the plot from slowing down.
However, there is one major issue that nearly soured my enjoyment. First, the author is a fairly good wordsmith. She can put phrases together that crackle and spark with wit and meaning. However, she does this at the expense of clarity. Far too often I found myself rereading a paragraph because I had no idea what the author just said so poetically. I really hate this sort of writing in novels, writing that sacrifices precious clarity in order to show you just how well the author can string words together. Far too many modern horror writers do this, and it can really ruin a story. I don't want to see how well you can write, I just want a good story.
Finally, I have a small nitpick about the ending. I really dislike when I pick up what looks like a standalone novel, only to be shown otherwise. I understand leaving certain minor things open for exploration in a future standalone novel. That's not the case here, the main story feels unresolved, and, given my expectation of a standalone novel, I was disappointed (UPDATE: This issue has been fixed)
I really did enjoy this novella. It's fun, if shallow, Mythos-esque fiction. However, I feel as my enjoyment came about in spite of Kiernan's writing, not because of it. Had the writing been a bit more clear, I would have enjoyed the novel far more than I did. Authors, please stop sacrificing clarity for "witty" wordsmithing.
3.5 out of 5 stars