The first few stories in this volume are modern takes on classic monster stories--mummy and skeleton, to be precise. That premise is a bit hokey on thThe first few stories in this volume are modern takes on classic monster stories--mummy and skeleton, to be precise. That premise is a bit hokey on the face of it, but Langan entirely redeems them by bringing in a rich classic prose voice to match (something he makes very sure we know is in specific imitation of Henry James, though I wouldn't have known otherwise). It's very satisfying to read, though the first story (which the story notes give the impression is Langan's first published fiction, though I'm not sure on that) is merely a good story when its premise (the bog mummy) and Scottish island setting promises so much more. I enjoyed the title story and the playful meta-story Tutorial (an almost Ligotti-esque story but executed better than Ligotti could). I skipped the post-apocalypse story Episode 7--for some reason my tolerance for that genre has gone from low to none right now. The final story, Laocoon, trades the rich classic prose voice that served so well for characterization in the first few stories in for something more biographical, detailing life events rather than letting us just spend time with the character more naturally. Far too much buildup for the payoff it offered, or I guess just the wrong kind of buildup, the kind that didn't really sell the payoff the whole thing hinged on....more
I'd read SGJ's Brushdogs in The Children of Old Leech and enjoyed it well enough but didn't think much of it or its author at that point. I picked thiI'd read SGJ's Brushdogs in The Children of Old Leech and enjoyed it well enough but didn't think much of it or its author at that point. I picked this anthology up because I was looking for horror short stories and knew his new novel was getting rave reviews, without even realizing it was the same author. Goes to show that you can't judge an author from just one story (though of course you often can't *not*, and there's lots of authors out there, so idk if that suggests anything but an open mind).
Most of the stories in People Lights are outside the subgenre of contemporary weird horror I've been seeking out, and a lot of them differ in style, tone, and plot from the sort of things I especially like. They're all contemporary stories about people dealing with fairly normal problems--grief, disability, loss, poverty, coming of age, etc. The horror elements skew towards the sparse, ghostly, psychological, and urban legend-esque. They're not really gory or imaginatively indulgent or encompassing. The prose is clipped and reserved, the opposite end of the spectrum from something like Mr. Gaunt. It's a kind of horror closer to what I imagine Steven King wrote, though I can't remember The Mist enough to say if that feeling is well-supported or I'm just saying it because of the one overt reference Jones makes.
Despite not being my exact cup of tea, I enjoyed this collection a lot and was consistently impressed with Jones' writing skill. He sketches characters so efficiently, with just little touches in the narrative voice, and they all feel unique and present not necessarily in their personality and demeanor (which I've been hung up on lately for some reason) but in their emotional lives, the way their life feels to be in. That's a great thing for any fiction to have, but Jones uses this solid foundation to build these slight, peculiar, lowkey payoffs, things that aren't so much an iteration of a monster archetype but just a series of weird things that poke these characters in very personal ways. A couple do tackle things like vampires and werewolves and they feel so fresh and grounded and unconventional. The title story is the standout; it's also the longest, and that extra time to dig into the characters is used to great effect. It has a very weird and unique premise and some amazing language--the title crops up as an offhand description and it is so good.
I usually don't take book jacket blurbs too seriously but I gotta agree with Laird Barron: Graham Jones is maybe not my favorite horror author but certainly among the best (of many) I've read lately....more
I was a fool and didn’t immediately realize this was very much my shit. The title is a bit twee, lacking the immediately evocative potency of a ChildrI was a fool and didn’t immediately realize this was very much my shit. The title is a bit twee, lacking the immediately evocative potency of a Children of Old Leech or Wide Carnivorous Sky. I picked it up on a whim, mostly on the strength of Jesse and Molly’s names (and I didn’t realize they didn’t have entries of their own). The fact that it was explicitly tied to Lovecraft put me off more than anything; I’ve never understood why people ever started treating his stuff as an IP instead of a genre. And there are indeed a couple unwelcome references here—the word Shoggoth simply no longer does what Lovecraft invented it to do—but this was largely a stupid thing to be worried about. There’s no Innsmouth or Miskatonic or what have you (in fact, an American setting is notably absent).
Combining fantasy and weird horror is not a new idea, and indeed more or less dates back to the earliest days of weird horror. But until Berserk in 1990, and then Demon’s Souls (and finally brought to its apotheosis in Bloodborne), it was never done *well*. Howard, Saunders, Moore, etc, are all too heroic, using the weird horror for inspiration for monsters and arcs to build their heroes up against (though in Howard’s case it’s hard to say there was really ever any inspiration at all). They didn’t get how the oppressive tone of the worldbuilding and the disempowering vastness of the enemies were crucial, couldn’t be diminished to uplift a hero’s valor without losing what they were supposed to contribute in the first place. Thankfully a pretty big segment of authors has gotten over the whole power fantasy protagonist deal and learned to write real characters, and we can have nice things now.
And Swords v Cthulhu is a very nice thing. It is, in fact, exactly a thing I’ve been craving since Dark Souls, Game of Thrones, Jonathan Strange, and Jesse’s novels: a rich smorgasbord of historical dark fantasy horror. The things I’ve found otherwise have mostly been either excellent but incomplete fits (Black Sails) or utter mediocrities (Betrayer) but SvC delivers. It’s a remarkably consistent book of short stories. It avoids the trap that Children of Old Leech fell into where many stories felt repetitive and unsatisfying, going through the same slow buildup to a final reveal of malicious horror weirdness. SvC sidesteps that problem in part by forcing authors to focus on the encounter and its outcome, not on the reveal.
There is a lot of diversity here, in the plot arcs but also the historical settings (generally evoked with specific detail and a sense of presence) and the characters, who include trans, intersex, slave, and indigenous characters from many parts of the world. In fact, it might be the most diverse cast of characters in any fiction I’ve read lately. Which is of course both a good and important thing in general, but it is especially appropriate here, where it can explicitly rectify Lovecraft’s particularly bad treatment of indigenous people especially.
One story (Scott Glancy’s Trespassers) tries to handle this revisionism the way Bone Tomahawk does, by displacing Lovecraft’s fear of indigenous religions onto a fantasy tribe that makes the satanic cannibal demonization tropes real and literal, something even the local natives fear, etc. I like this trope and understand the desire to keep it. And Trespassers uses it to good effect, lampshading it a bit by placing it in an explicitly colonial context. I’m just not quite sure it solves the underlying issue. I prefer the way stories like Ben Stewart’s Two Suns over Zululand and L Lark’s sublime St Baboloki’s Hymn for Lost Girls (the best in the collection) handle this, weaving their cosmic horror into the fabric of an inclusive indigenous worldview still trying to figure out what to make of them.
Quite a few of the stories in the volume benefit from a less apocalyptic portrayal of their horror elements. Nothing is quite as pluralistic and tolerant as Mieville novel, say, but there are plenty of stories that put protagonists as servants, employees, or just indirect witnesses of eldritch phenomena, rather than directly their victims or mad attempted masters (the latter another tired Lovecraft trope largely absent here). Caleb Wilson’s The Snail King and Natania Barron’s the Matter of Aude make good use of eldritch monsters and cults as just elements of a world rather than becoming the only thing in the world that matters.
Characterization is very strong throughout, with only a couple exceptions, and it is ultimately what makes these stories stand out compared to their forebears in Howard, etc. Unfortunately one of the weaker ones is one of the first stories I’ve seen to explicitly answer my call for more creative uses of parasites in fantasy. M. K. Sauer’s The Thief in the Sand is quite short and doesn’t do much in terms of characterization or worldbuilding. It’s content to call its mutualist symbiont “parasite” and doesn’t give it really any interesting traits or volition; it can give super wormy powers when in contact with water but that’s about it.
Aside from those I’ve mentioned already, Wendy Wagner’s Ordo Virtutum and Jonathan Howard’s Without Within stand out. I enjoyed Orrin Grey’s contribution more than other work of his I’ve read and John Langan’s less. Most of them are middling-good, but I guess I was most impressed by how few really put me off or felt like duds, especially with so many entries.
The most exciting thing to me about SvC is knowing there are so many talented authors out there on this wavelength. There are so many things that are hinted at but could reward much deeper treatment. In my mind, that’s primarily making the historical setting not just a backdrop but an active participant, weaving the dreamlands journeys of a Louisiana slave into that melting pot cultural context, or building out how the supernatural ecology of South Africa responds to the supernatural ecology of European colonialism, or how eldritch horrors integrate into Japan’s yokai folklore. Very much looking forward to seeing more of this stuff, by these authors and others, in the near future. ...more
As an American fantasy reader, the influence of things like Norse and Greek mythology and Arthurian romance on contemporary works are so transparent tAs an American fantasy reader, the influence of things like Norse and Greek mythology and Arthurian romance on contemporary works are so transparent they can feel almost uninspired. From that perspective, Japanese cultural stuff feels bursting with creativity and novelty. It's one of those insights that feels really obvious in hindsight, so much so that I'm searching my memory for occasions when I surely must have inferred the existence of a cohesive body of folklore from which all the anime and games I was consuming were drawn, even if I never bothered to look into it. That's not really true, unfortunately. I've seen Pom Poko twice (or more?), Mushishi is one of my favorite works of fantasy, I wrote an article about Pokemon's relationship to Japanese environmental history and views of nature. Shit, I literally checked out a book of Japanese folk tales a few years ago and read a bunch of genuine yokai folktales. And it was somehow still a revelation to me when Nioh took the original yokai and presented them directly.
In the wake of that revelation I've looked into a bunch of yokai resources--a facebook group, the NHK's Begin Japanology video, Matt Meyer's yokai.com, and Matt Alt's Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. Those other resources have more and arguably better art, and far more comprehensive yokai listings. Only Foster's work is crucial, however. It provides a broad but modestly comprehensive overview of yokai folklore studies, their evolution as a body of Shinto-adjacent spirits and working day to day knowledge to a playground for wordplay and political comedy to the modern bestiary of kawaii and horror material. It's a great summary, written in accessible and fun academic prose. The yokai descriptions stand out for their careful distinction between historical variants and attention to other points of reference, from zoology to carpentry. On a couple of occasions he indulges more speculation about the underlying causes of a yokai's popularity in a way that doesn't feel very enlightening (eg, he suggests in a few sentences that kuchi-sake-onna could "represent" parents pressuring their kids to do well in school, or growing up in concrete apartment complexes, or awareness of pollution, or anxiety over changing roles for women).
Far more than Shinto or even Japanese history writ large, yokai provide the core patterns and mechanisms that underlie Japanese fantasy pop culture stuff. Foster provides the best introduction to that material I've found, at least for an adult with a taste for scholarship and history and layers to things....more
The Elementals is an atmospheric and character-driven Southern Gothic weird horror with a strong emphasis on place and history. The cast manages to swThe Elementals is an atmospheric and character-driven Southern Gothic weird horror with a strong emphasis on place and history. The cast manages to swing its bored aristocratic family into both a link to genre tradition and a set of fresh and compelling relationships, particularly between precociously exposed India and her cosmopolitan father Luker (what a name!). The novel is very confident about putting those relationships first, and the horror bits simmer and fizzle in the background until close to the end. It's exactly the sort of thing I look for in genre fiction these days.
It does thread through a few Gothic tropes to build up its horror angle, and the connections between the family and the weirdness felt a bit too superficial ultimately. It sometimes felt like McDowell was pulling up things like the buried alive subplot just to remind us this would eventually be a horror novel, and while the thing that Gothic angle suggests would be more boring and less to my taste than what's actually in the book (it's totally naturalistic and unexplained), it would have made more narrative sense I think. The setting is potent and unique, and it makes a lot of great use out of its natural peculiarities--the tides and movements of the dunes play important roles in the plot, which is neat. I could have used more environmental description, though. We get a few glimpses of birds and manatees and the ocean and such and it's all great but it doesn't come up very often.
As much as it draws on a clear Literary tradition, and as slow as it is, it still feels like this would make great source material for a contemporary horror film. ...more
Something about these just feels like over-masticated Lovecraft imitation without enough imagination or character to really latch on to. Wasn't not boSomething about these just feels like over-masticated Lovecraft imitation without enough imagination or character to really latch on to. Wasn't not bored with any of the stories I tried, but I gave up after not too many. ...more
Read the four King in Yellow stories and (accidentally) The Demoiselle d'Ys. The first story, Repairer of Reputations, sets things out on a sort of unRead the four King in Yellow stories and (accidentally) The Demoiselle d'Ys. The first story, Repairer of Reputations, sets things out on a sort of unique footing that makes the project feel more open with possibility than I'd expect from a proto-Weird story. It opens with two pages of exposition about the Nazi-esque policies applied in near-future America, from deporting Negroes to a new independent country to banning immigration of foreign Jews and instituting a rational "Prussian-style" bureaucracy in the military and government. And public suicide chambers. It's a surprising and seemingly unnecessary burst of retro-futurism with a tenuous relationship with the rest of the story. That story is surprisingly strong, though, in its characterization and suggestive world-building. It uses the delusional protagonist trope fairly well, creating a compelling tension between the rational world and the supernatural plot he imagines himself at the center of.
The rest of the stories are dedicated to fleshing out that supernatural plot, but it peaked in the first one for me, both in implicit depth and creativity. They emphasize the reality of the King in Yellow's effects by repetition--data to support our credulity in its effects. But that's not the problem Weird Horror writers really need to solve. I appreciate that he never uses Weird copout language--beyond human understanding, etc--but just repeating the same Carcosa babble phrases in the context of more or less boring Gothic ghost stories robbed them of their evocative power for me. Repairer of Reputations showed the King in Yellow as a vast and ambitious conspiracy, and the rest dial down to relatively boring individual scales. It never delivers on its promise.
The Yellow Sign does have a surprisingly compelling romance, and that along with Repairer lifted these stories above the level of shlock. The language in general is certainly evocative of Lovecraft, but more often of Gothic writing and, particularly when concerned with the sensitivities of writers and artists, Hesse. There's more Demian here than I'd ever expected. Doesn't achieve much beyond making characters vulnerable to things normal people might simply glance by, but it's there. Also strongly related to the classist focus on wealthy protagonists, but that's hardly a fault of Chambers in particular.
Demoiselle d'Ys is maybe the most derivative and straightforward fairy story I've ever read. It's like a pure expression of the trope without any artistry or flavor. ...more
This is top-shelf weird horror. It's a fair bit longer than Amigara Fault, which takes away a bit of the blunt dread as things have time to grow familThis is top-shelf weird horror. It's a fair bit longer than Amigara Fault, which takes away a bit of the blunt dread as things have time to grow familiar and there are a few less-than-pitch-perfect arcs. But it more than makes up for that in the depth of its exploration of the premise and just the amount of great content. While Uzumaki has the same kind of episodic format as The Drifting Classroom, it avoids the problems of that series by keeping every idea focused on its central spiral gimmick. All the ideas are fresh and imaginative and uniquely horrifying, none of them really feel like genre tropes just put in there to fill space. And they tie together in a really subtle way, building a mythology of the town that doesn't exactly make sense, but exhibits exactly the horrible internal consistency at the heart of the series. It's also better than Gyo insofar as the larger mythology is just a perfect weird horror setup. Nothing is ever reduced to an explanation, the power of the shape has no limits or logic beyond its inexorable replication, and it just keeps getting bigger and more oppressive without ever sacrificing that opacity.
The art is fucking incredible, the best of the manga I've read so far, and I think a lot of that comes from the inherent visual traits of the spiral. It suits Ito's dense style really well, and it is actually mesmerizing enough with its optical traits that it's not hard to buy into the idea that people are becoming obsessed with it. I read it in various stages of sleep deprivation and maybe that helped but the shape itself and the power of suggestion help to put me in the frame of the story really effectively.
It reminds me a lot of Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy, especially in the pit toward the end, to the extent that I have a hard time thinking he wasn't influenced by it in some way. Southern Reach has a lot more going for it in terms of characterization and world-building, but Uzumaki's intense and visually engrossing world is probably unmatched....more
The Drifting Classroom is a novel-scale manga that feels like a weekly serial with aspirations to a much longer run than it actually got. It has someThe Drifting Classroom is a novel-scale manga that feels like a weekly serial with aspirations to a much longer run than it actually got. It has some interesting premises, and it was a clear inspiration for Bloodborne's Nightmare Lecture Hall/Nightmare Frontier, but the world-building is undermined by a sense that every comic is just searching for a one-off idea to fill space. This impression comes from the genre-trope laziness of a lot of the ideas, but also because their execution over-explains them all or wraps them up too abruptly. There are a few hints of more interesting ecological and supernatural devices, but they either never go anywhere or go way too far too fast. The mutants literally watch a movie and narrate the entire sequence of events that caused the apocalypse and their emergence, and it takes away a lot of their potential. And I guess it's not the most surprising cuz this was written in the '70s, but the apocalypse is an incomprehensible and vague but super preachy. One of the kids literally travels back in time to try to keep people from destroying the planet, ugh.
The bigger problem with DC is that the characterization is pretty weak. As a bloody, brutal extrapolation of Lord of the Flies, it displays aspirations to psychological and sociological depth but the execution of those ideas is undercut by the sprint towards violence. The adults resort to hostage taking, murder, and extortion to appoint themselves king of the school almost immediately. Most of the teachers die in a murder-suicide spree in the space of a few pages catalyzed by nothing but the main premise of the series. Kids are constantly making fickle choices just to cause conflict and justify more character deaths. Every time things get slow, this happens, or Umezu introduces a random element to torture the kids more (a squirrel infected with bubonic plague shows up and infects everyone and then the ones that survive are healthy by the end of the volume).
I'm fine with the brutal treatment of the kids and it could have been good if they'd been identifiable characters. But there were so many, and so many of the had to be introduced each volume to keep up with the number of named characters who died in the last one, that it was hard to care about any of them. And unlike in Ito's works, none of the art really carried the deaths on their own; it didn't generally feel all that imaginative. The smoke and sand effects especially just felt like scribbles a lot of the time....more
Gyo has a whacky premise that is over-explained but involves some pretty cool illustrations. I'm not into -punk things, so all the tubes are defo a deGyo has a whacky premise that is over-explained but involves some pretty cool illustrations. I'm not into -punk things, so all the tubes are defo a detriment in my view, but the fish and corpses are all good, and well-suited to Ito (or whoever drew these, idk how that works in manga?)'s dense style. The problem with Gyo is its lack of real character development. Everyone is boring and has shallow motivations and that's largely because they spend so much of their dialogue, even in action scenes, just explaining new ideas about the phenomenon or its history. P boring. But the manga isn't boring, it's really fucking weird, stylistically. There's a phantasmagorical dream sequence in a carnival about the will of the corpse-gas and its machines, and then the protag's uncle hooks his corpse into a mechno-blimp that also has a hangglider built into it. It's goofy and kind of buoys the length of the story, which has long since destroyed the mystique and horror of the premise.
The real gems in Gyo, at probably a quarter its length but with more than twice the quality, are the bonus stories (and they push this collection from a 3 to a 4 star review for me). The first is super charming, simple, and to the point. The second, the Enigma of Amigara Fault, is justly famous, and presents all the weird imagination, opaque mystery, and dark, psychological horror the genre has to offer. It's a masterpiece of Weird horror. It puts Gyo to shame. ...more
So I actually haven't read anything by Laird Barron, and didn't really know who he was until I'd read the first bit of this and went to look him up. ISo I actually haven't read anything by Laird Barron, and didn't really know who he was until I'd read the first bit of this and went to look him up. I picked this collection up on the strength of the title (which is great) and the inclusion of stories by Jesse Bullington and Molly Tanzer. I had only vaguely heard of a couple of other authors.
It's interesting to imagine what Barron's writing is like from this tribute; despite the wide range of stories, there's a fairly clear MO. One of the reviews or foreword pieces I read (I can't find it now :<) suggested that readers coming in without being familiar with Barron might find the strangeness a bit overwhelming; this was sort of the opposite of my experience. Unlike most books, Old Leech is pretty close to exactly what my brain had conjured up from the title and context. It's Lovecraft by way of Kerouac and Krakauer (both of whom get very specific homages in this collection), a focus on the bloody, meaty, and wormy, and with an update to contemporary standards of evocative writing and solid characterization. That's a cozily familiar aesthetic for me on all fronts, to the point that I'd say Old Leech represents the perfect balance between "I wish I'd written this" and "I think I could write something that would fit in here."
Because it's an anthology of short stories, none of the entries in Old Leech go very far into the "carnivorous cosmos." Most are build-ups to the reveal of some gruesome and horrible perversion of reality. As an anthology of weird fiction, such reveals aren't really reveals, and after a certain point it becomes a bit tiresome to constantly go up to the brink and never go farther. The "carnivorous cosmos" has a lot of echoes of the Souls games, especially Dark Souls 3 (both Demon's Souls and DS3 have enemies that are just more or less anthropomorphic piles of leeches) and those games really let you soak in a world where these stories just tease it.
So the strength of the stories (and this is true for pretty much any weird horror regardless of that preamble) depends entirely on how well they pace and foreshadow their buildup, how much imagination and imagery and personality they can throw on the formula. And a few of them are really phenomenal. JT Glover and Jesse Bullington's story stands out head and shoulders above the rest, with a strong protagonist and unique setting (feels like a riff on Vermilion) and especially a really rich visual and biological imagination. Gemma Files' The Harrow stands out as well for the simple but vivid weirdness that pervades it throughout. Molly Tanzer, Paul Tremblay, and Richard Gavin also have good stories, pulling off nontraditional structures effectively.
I was underwhelmed by some, especially the more Kerouac-esque entries. Orrin Grey's story wished it was a film, wasting time describing things characters were watching without really giving the same impact to the reader. TE Grau's story tried to square a straight Kerouac pastiche with a weird cult story; it almost works at moments, where the omnivorous spiritualism of the Beats meets something ready to eat back, but ultimately the story feels too linear and the end too rote to be satisfying. Ditto Griffin's Firedancing. Of that set, Snake Wine and Tenebrionidae worked the best for me, but almost felt like it was squished down from a full novel. Cody Goodfellow's story is an odd duck, definitely feels like it stumbled in from someone else's tribute anthology.
Collectively, they sketch out a mythos that feels satisfying in both its familiarity and its creativity, bringing a diversity of new perspectives and story structures (it's so nice that everyone isn't a melancholy aristocrat or a discredited academic chasing forbidden knowledge). It's definitely sold me on checking on Laird Barron's own work ASAP, and I'll probably look out for some of the better authors in this collection in the future too. ...more
Roadside Picnic is basically a Lovecraft story told by Russian novelists. I found this presentation superior to Lovecraft's model in nearly every way.Roadside Picnic is basically a Lovecraft story told by Russian novelists. I found this presentation superior to Lovecraft's model in nearly every way. Society, focused in the community of Harmont, is grappling with the effects of a brief but messy visit by aliens. Scientists and “stalkers” alike enter the Zones where the aliens left their detritus to seek out objects of value—for scientific inquiry or their more direct, magical applications. While the terrible, haunting unknown in Lovecraft tends to draw on racism and fear of wild nature, the Strugatsky brothers instead draw on newer phantoms: the poisoned landscapes of nuclear fallout or chemical spills, the gradual, statistical horrors of radio- and chemogenic mutations, and the fallen dreams embodied in post-industrial urban decay.
Perhaps because I'm actually afraid of industrial accidents and nuclear fallout (in ways I'm not of, say, rural black people, fungi, demons, or inbreeding), the tension of immediate danger is far more palpable here than in anything of Lovecraft's. The balance of arcane scenery and physical peril also contributed; in Lovecraft, far too often I felt like the protagonist was simply in a hallucinatory haunted house ride. The Strugatsky brothers, especially in a probably clumsy translation, lack the brilliant prose that Lovecraft's worlds hinge on. But they make up for it by showing the cruel, indifferent arcana dissolving flesh, burning our protagonists alive, crushing them, grinding them, mutating their offspring.
In Lovecraft's tales, the protagonist is far too often simply driven by curiosity; a rather thin window dressing for “the plot demands that he open this malicious cask/malevolent tomb/portal to a demon world.” The hero is nearly always a rich, educated white male, from the city, Christian, etc. He is the avatar of rightness and goodness entering a world that is cruelly indifferent to its peril.
Roadside Picnic inverts this premise. The great, terrible Unknown has reached out and imposed itself on all of humanity. It is always there, and the way the Harmont community gradually adapts to its constant influence is the core of the novel, sidelining plot. In fact, the way plot events are slipped in behind the scenes is quite subtle; most major plot points occur during the time leaps between chapters, and must be inferred based on, e.g., new characters like (view spoiler)[the Monkey and Red's father (hide spoiler)].
Red and the stalkers are very much a social phenomenon, part of society's way of coping with the presence of the Zones. Yes, they learn to live for the thrill of the Zone, but ultimately they are driven there by an unfair economy and the boom and bust cycle of alcoholism, gambling, prostitution, and poverty that typifies mining towns. Harmont is grimy, sleazy, immoral. But there is a remarkable sense of camaraderie there, a sense that the cat-and-mouse played by the international authorities and the stalkers is just a job (a truly remarkable relief from the black and white morality these scenarios so often invoke).
Part 3 is the book's weakest point. While Red, our protag, rots in jail, we are treated to 50 pages of exposition and pseudo-philosophy by Dick Noonan, the Cop of the story. Ambiguity is difficult to handle with subtlety, and a fictional Great Unknown is simply only as good as the reader's imagination is allowed to conjure. The more the authors fill in through exposition, the more it is demystified and we are reminded of its fictitiousness. This is something Lovecraft understood exceedingly well. ...more