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A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,058 ratings  ·  344 reviews
The award-winning and critically-acclaimed master of horror returns with a pair of chilling tales—both never-before-published in print—that examine the violence and depravity of the human condition.

Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the e
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Harper Voyager
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Sadie Hartmann
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cemetery-dance
Review originally published at Cemetery Dance Sept. 23rd, 2019

The cover of A Lush and Seething Hell depicts two figures standing in some brambles; a darkness looms behind them, above them, all around them. It’s a menacing tower of darkness bearing down, but also rising up. Upon closer inspection, the figures aren’t so much standing as they are cowering.

I know because I stared at the cover and the title for awhile before I ventured past it to get at the meaty insides. And it’s that posture of cow
After reading THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY, I became an instant fan of John Hornor Jacobs. A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL reassured me that my respect and high esteem for the man was earned and well placed.

This book is comprised of two stories, the first a novella, (the aforementioned THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY), and the second, a short novel titled MY HEART STRUCK SORROW. This review is going to focus almost solely on the second tale.

When I saw on Twitter that this book was coming out, I clicked t
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My gushing blurb!

The audacity of John Hornor Jacobs to write two brilliant, hallucinatory, terrifying short novels that mash up South American poetry and politics, pre-WWII American folk songs, all-too-human depravity and longing, and cosmic horror. And then, he presents them in one book, A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL; one of the best books of the year. Damn him.
Apr 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
I did not read "The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky" -- I read the first 30 pages, checked some reviews (torture is not my thing), and skipped to the second novella, "My Heart Struck Sorrow." Your mileage most certainly may vary. Jacobs is certainly a skilled writer, and the period elements seemed well done to the best of my non-expert knowledge.

However. This was a lot of driving around the South in a hot Studebaker for very little Cosmic Horror payoff. I'm not even certain why the supernatural elemen
Feb 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book is a pile of hot garbage. Maybe if it wasn't marketed as a horror book the review would have been better. This book is basically if Lewis Carrol got a concussion then fell on a type writer. ...more
Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

A Lush and Seething Hell is comprised of two books - a novella called The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky, and a short novel called My Heart Struck Sorrow. I read an ARC of The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky last year, so I'm copying my review into this one, and then will talk about My Heart Struck Sorrow below that.

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky:

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky, and I'm so glad that I picked it up. This story immediately drew me in, and I was hooke
4 stars average--I really liked it. This is a book of two horror novellas. Both are really well written.

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky: 3 stars. This is a story of cosmic horror, and also the tale of a South American dictatorship and all the horror that entails. It uses one of my favorite plot elements: a mysterious manuscript that must be translated, and that might reveal some universal secrets. If you're squeamish, be warned that there's lots of torture here. I liked the story, but thought the e
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even the guards laughed at this, and for a while the barracks were full of the laughter of incarcerated men. They sounded like any group of men gathered together. Each full of his own particular sorrow, his mirth, his guilt, the comet's tail of his existence pulling wreckage after him.

Two novellas with writing that is several notches above the average fare. The type of stories that make you feel as if something unseen just brushed past you, raising the hair on your arms.

Christine Sandquist
This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.

This is not a comfortable book. It is brutal. It is often gory. It is violent, torturous, and painful. It is not palatable. And yet, A Lush and Seething Hell is perhaps one of the most polished and seamless books I have read. As Chuck Wendig put it in the foreword, “his magic tricks remain pure fucking magic. These murder ballads are ones we have not heard before.” I cannot find it in myself to disagree with him. When I review
Brandon Baker
May 20, 2022 rated it liked it
I decided to power though this because it’s been chilling on my shelf for almost 2 years, and I have mixed feelings.

The first story was definitely my favorite of the two, but I still didn’t love it. It was prose-heavy, which isn’t a bad thing typically, but in this instance it felt like homework lol But otherwise, it had some unsettling and gross imagery, even a little body horror that was pretty vivid and the cosmic aspect was pretty cool.

Now the second story, idk if it was just me but I thou
T. Frohock
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Horror is many different things to different people. What scares one person isn’t the same as what frightens another. For me, the best horror is a deep examination of our negative emotions; those thoughts and fears that disquiet in the depth of the night: moments left undone, words unsaid, the strange, the weird, the obscene brought to light. Done well, it is a cerebral exploration of the darkness that lies within everyone.

If that is your vibe, too, then here are two stories done exceptionally w
Caitlin Starling
Unsettling and incisive, these collected novellas illuminate the brutality of recent history and the cruelty - both heartwrenchingly mundane and more eldritch-leaning - of those in power.

My Heart Struck Sorrow is a lush, hallucinatory portrait of guilt, self-loathing, and the extent to with a heart can twist back on itself to deliver punishment, while The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky tackles the horrors man is capable of, as well as the lasting trauma of physical and cultural violence, even as it we
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Thanks to Harper Voyager and the John Hornor Jacobs for an advanced reading copy of A Lush and Seething Hell in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel or author.

Note: Though the book is comprised of a novella and a short novel, I will really only be reviewing the short novel this go-round, though the extent to which I savored his writing will be plastered all over it.

I was lucky enough to have received an advanced reading copy of
Nick Chianese
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Egregiously mis-marketed. By no means should these stories be labelled either "cosmic" or "horror".
But just because the tales aren't what one expects, that doesn't automatically make them bad. Who doesn't like a pleasant surprise? And a compelling story is a compelling story, no matter the genre. The problem is that John Hornor Jacobs isn't concerned with story or character--the two ingredients that make up a good narrative. He's solely focused on theme, on ideas of political oppression, system
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Weird and wild, disturbing and delightful. Pretty much what it says on the tin. Being an archivist (at a place that includes a very large historical audio archive), the second one was particularly wonderful. Clearly Jacobs knows a bit about audio preservation and archiving -- I mean, how many people even know what a Soundscriber is?
Alisi ☆ wants to read too many books ☆
My feels upon finishing:

The first novella was okay. I'm not one for cosmic horror but it had tentacle-y guy and was a quick read. The second one was like slogging through Hell. It was boring and stupid. I hated all the characters. Harlem talked like a 2000s "woke" dude (like, this is set in 1938 and he's shook that another white guy, in the South, calls black people nigger -- like, he's so shook that he just says 'the n word' repeatedly. I'm not saying all white people were racist back then but
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
I just love John Hornor Jacobs' cosmic horror. The two novellas in A Lush and Seething Hell are set in the same world as Southern Gods {my review}, and I really can't get enough of it. You definitely don't need to read Southern Gods before reading A Lush and Seething Hell, but I do recommend you read Southern Gods at some point just because I loved it so.

I read the two novellas in A Lush and Seething Hell separately (a month apart), and even though I really enjoyed The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky,
Kelly K
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
Wait...where was the horror?
Will Klein
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Initially reviewed here at

I am not a religious man. Despite my Catholic upbringing and coming of age in the American midwest, the world of the spiritual has never called out to me. I’ve never felt the rapture of religion or the whisper of the divine. As such, I find myself sorely lacking in vocabulary to describe my experience with A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs. Comprised of the novellas The Sea Dreams it is the Sky and My Heart Struck Sorrow, this “anthology-
Michael Hicks
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, netgalley
My review of A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL can be found at High Fever Books.

A Lush and Seething Hell is the kind of novel that you hope will, and even expect to, take an author’s career to the next level. It’s the sort of work that, if you haven’t been reading John Hornor Jacob already, you’ll be kicking yourself for this oversight and scouring bookstores for his past releases. The good news is that you’re getting two sublimely literary tales of cosmic horror here, one a novella and the other a short
Sheena Forsberg
Jul 10, 2022 rated it really liked it

Aah, I love me some cosmic horror now and again: Knowledge better left alone, but that pull at you and the unfortunate characters within these pages.

JHJ has been mentioned in the same breath as Clive Barker, and I can easily see why when it comes to the 1st story in this book. There’s some definite Hellbound Heart-vibes to it (and I loooove Barker!). It’s like a non-bigoted H.P. Lovecraft & Barker had a love child that at times outshines both parents. Equal measures creepy & brutal, those who g
Bill Hsu
Oct 19, 2020 rated it liked it
More notes at

I liked the first novel, with the understated prose and associations with dark Latin American fiction, a lot more than the second. In the second novel, I see what Jacobs tried to do with the two narratives (Cromwell's and Harlan Parker's), but for various reasons I wasn't so convinced with the parallels.
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, this was a disappointing book for me. The two novellas within are not badly written by any means, but I feel like they are too long for what they are. Imagine if, say, HP Lovecraft had taken a story like "Cool Air" and padded it out to 200 pages; that's kind of how I felt about this book. It's too long. The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky is by far the better of the two stories and the only one that truly brushes up against "cosmic horror" (bad piece of deceptive marketing there, by the way.. ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 and 1/2 stars

I really enjoyed this one. Not too very familiar with the cosmic horror sub-genre but what I got from it is a strange feeling of dread while reading both stories. I can't say I like one story more than the other (but if I had a gun pointed to my head I would say the first one only for the breath of fresh air feel I got right up from the start) but what I can say is that the reader will probably be as enthralled as I was. A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL reminds me of the Dell /Abyss line
Ashley Daviau
Jul 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Hmm, I’m right in the middle with this one, I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. Some parts were incredibly interesting and at times I was thoroughly enjoying this novel and convinced it would be a five star read because there’s nothing I enjoy more than a story about a book or music, added bonus if it’s a horror story! These two stories had some original and unique ideas that I really did enjoy but at times it got a bit long winded and I too often found my interest waning. And that’s n ...more
Dec 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
Ugh. Cosmic horror? Not even close, not even horror, really. It is not quite the New Year but I am resolving (?) to stop grabbing books without thoroughly researching them first. I love horror novels, and I like Cthulhu-Lovecraftian stuff (though a bit less, but still quite a lot). A genre and a micro-genre that are hard to do well, and this book is an example of when things go poorly. I am not going to waste a lot of time going into details. Suffice it to say there is little cosmic horror in th ...more
Grace Bingham
Jan 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
In reading this book there are signs that JHJ can write, particularly in his graphic descriptions and ability to set a mood. However, just when his writing begins to get particularly good, he seems to step back from himself, and instead leaves vague details. I'm all for endings where you don't know the truth of what has happened, but he leaves too many questions unanswered. His attempts to use exploitation as a horror aspect calls back to the 70s and 80s but not in any sort of good way. Instead, ...more
Becky Spratford
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review will be appearing in the October 2019 issue of Library Journal: ...more
Richard Bankey
Dec 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Worst book I've read in a long time. I'm actually mad at myself for finishing it. I would give it zero stars if that were possible. ...more
Kim Lockhart
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-2019
Fair warning: this will be a fairly long review, because I had so many thoughts as I was reading.

The book is actually two medium length stories. Both have some elements in common, and neither rushes the plot.

The first story is titled "The Sea Dreams It is The Sky," which immediately conjures for us the mirror effect, in the images of sky and sea. What we often think of as opposites are, in some ways, merely mirror images of each other, and have equal bearing on each other, for evil or for good.
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John Hornor Jacobs, is an award-winning author of genre bending adult and YA fiction and a partner and senior art director at a Little Rock, Arkansas advertising agency, Cranford Co. His first novel, Southern Gods, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Excellence in a First Novel and won the Darrel Award. The Onion AV said of the book, “A sumptuous Southern Gothic thriller steeped in the disti ...more

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