Brian Steele's Reviews > The Dark is Light Enough for Me

The Dark is Light Enough for Me by John Claude Smith
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Dec 26, 11

bookshelves: dark-fantasy, horror

It is a rarity that a short story collection can speak to me with each of its tales, rarer still that the voice be so articulate. While I can definitely appreciate elements of "splatterpunk," too many modern horror author don't even go that bloody route, instead remaining in a safe "horror lit" style. Smith goes elsewhere, a bleak universe that one gets glimpses of in works by Harlan Ellison, H.P. Lovecraft, and occasionally Clive Barker. The intellect powering these nightmares is a staggering, transcendental monster in itself.

Many of the tales within feature certain horror archetypes - absurdist characters, extreme visceral sensations, madness manifested, etc. However, behind the window-dressings of dark, speculative fiction we find the musings of a philosopher. The concepts of guilt, ennui, ostracism, addiction and rage are examined just as keenly by Smith and his horror as they would have been by the likes of Sartre, Camus, Kafka, Nietzsche and Kant. The reader is forced to think along with feel, a dark dialogue open straight into your psyche.

These tales are not simplistic morality plays, nor are they juvenile in scope. The title story alone will leave you teetering in existential terror, while "The Perceptive One" will leave you hopeless. Our self-image (and self-worth) is attacked in "I Want To Be A Pretty Little Girl," as nature's dark secrets are revealed in "Strange Trees." Smith even gives us his own unique spin on vampires in the satirical "I Want To Take You Higher" and zombies in the nihilistic "Not Breathing."

This is a collection of brilliantly conceived short stories, the deep patina of darkness only adding to the themes explored by Smith. It is easily a 5 Star book, deserving of that rating, and deserving to be read by any fan of intelligent horror.
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