John Langan, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning novel The Fisherman, returns with a new book of stories.
An aspiring actress goes to an audition with a mysterious director. An editor receives the last manuscript of his murdered friend. A young lawyer learns the terrible connection between her grandfather and an ancient race of creatures. A bodyguard drives her employer across a frozen road toward an immense hole in the earth. In these stories and others, John Langan maps the branches of his literary family tree, tracing his connections to the writers whose dark fictions have inspired his own.
John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman (Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009), and two collections of stories, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters (Prime 2011). He's one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.
John Langan lives in New York's Hudson Valley with his wife, younger son, and many, many animals. He teaches at SUNY New Paltz. He's working toward his black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do.
First things first, the introduction to this book, written by Stephen Graham Jones, is so choice. Bonus points right away for mentioning one of my favorite childhood stories ever: The Monster at the End of This Book (narrated by your lovable ol’ pal, Grover).
Dr. Jones goes on to say, “John Langan, both delivering us some compelling horror but at the same time interrogating the basic form of horror.”
That’s how this collection feels to me too: On its face, twenty-one stories of horror. Underneath it all, horror deconstructed and inhaled by the reader. It’s a part of you now. It informs you.
A perfect example of this is the second story, “Hyphae.” I can’t stop thinking about this story. It has penetrated beyond my mind’s natural order of things and has taken root in my fears. I have a new fear. I can’t tell you what this is because I want people to read this story with all the points of discovery intact—just the way I read it. I stumbled around in a dank, smelly, old house while James looked for his father; the father is found and…
…a new fear is born. Enjoy! (I say that menacingly because I want other readers to see what I can’t unsee.)
Sandwiched in between longer stories are some amusing tales that leave you hungry. One of these is “Zombies in Marysville.” Langan entices his readers with the perfect setup, then hides the rest of the story in the archives of his imagination. I enjoyed this because I was still thinking about it when I started the next story, and it’s that kind of crossover that feels intentional on Langan’s behalf.
“Into the Darkness, Fearlessly” is one of my favorite stories. In classic Langan fashion, our tale opens with a story within a story. A professional editor finds a manuscript the morning after (the morning after what? You’ll see) from his client, Linus Price. It’s title is A Grammar of Dread, A Catechism of Terror. Just even reading this title sends the editor into a physical state. This leads to the editor meditating on his relationship with Linus and Linus’s wife, Dominika. The storytelling here is so absorbing! I swear as I type this, the world utterly disappeared as the drama swallowed me whole. Also noteworthy: I love books about writing and writers, don’t you? The fourth wall is slightly transparent as Langan peels back the curtain, revealing to his readers the world of writers from a fictional POV.
One more note: I don’t know how to say what needs to be said without sounding like a creep, so have grace for me? Some writers don’t write sensuality or sex scenes that read real. The sex in this particular story proves that it can enhance authenticity instead of harm.
Lastly, before I carry on too long, the title story, Children of the Fang, is everything I have grown to admire about Langan’s writing—atmospheric descriptions, mysterious found-footage, rich mythical lore about ancient creatures or beings—it’s almost as if Langan challenges his audience to engage with his stories on a cultural level; an understanding that readers will bring with them their historical context or religious worldview. This kind of interaction means that everyone will have their own, unique experience based on the personal lens one wears while they read. Personally, Langan is my standard by which all other short stories are measured. There is something in this collection that will stand out as your favorite, relish your time in these Genealogies to find it.
That John's new collection CHILDREN OF THE FANG would be brilliant (and freakin' scary) wasn't a question. But, jesus, the audacity, range, scope, and humanity of his imagination within his continued interrogation of genre and literary influence is, frankly, awe-inspiring. The only question for me was how many stories would employ a cactus. (answer: one). I love John's big terrible brain and look forward to eating it one day.
John Langan is so freaking good at what it does that it’s almost annoying. He’s one of those authors who’s new books I’ll buy without having read even a single review, because I implicitly trust that I’ll love it, and “Children of the Fang” confirmed that my trust is well-deserved. Langan writes literary horror that is erudite and sophisticated, and I can’t get enough.
This most recent collection is best read with keeping the story notes at the end of the book in mind: for each story, Langan looks a which author, book or movie planted the seed that he nurtured and turned into a creepy tale. I’ll be honest: I prefer his longer stories, the ones where he really takes time to flesh out a world for his bizarre and macabre events to unfold, but do not discount the shorter stories, which are interesting muscle flexing and stylistic exercises. I especially loved the following titles:
“With Max Barry in the Nearer Precinct” “Into the Darkness, Fearlessly” “Children of the Fang” “Ymir” “The Horn of the World’s Ending” "The Underground Economy" "Inundation"
Even if this collection does not clear the bar set by “The Wide, Carnivorous Sky” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and “The Fisherman” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) – which is still, in my opinion, one of the best horror novels ever written – it is still a treasure trove of creepy wonders that really shows of Langan's range, and also the eclectic muses he draws from. Obviously, the classics are there, but he is also a shamless fan and supporters of his friends and fellow writer Laird Barron and Stephen Graham Jones, and is not too proud to admit that their work is cross-polinating.
Also, perhaps bizarelly, Langan makes me fall in love with the Hudson River Valley, even if he uses it as a setting for haunting and scary creatures. The cover of his books should be Thoms Cole paintings - which I find to invoke a similar feeling of beautiful yet ominous landscape.
Highly recommended for fans of flavorful horror writing!
3 stars overall--I liked the book. Langan is sort of hit-or-miss for me, but when he hits, it's excellent. There are a lot of stories in this collection, most of which I found kind of middling, but I'll mention the ones I loved. Hyphae: Dad's doing some digging under the house... Into the Darkness, Fearlessly: I always knew being an editor was dangerous. Time for a career change. Children of the Fant: Grandpa has a secret this time! Great monster story. Tragoidia: The Great God Pan is alive. The Horn of the World's Ending: A sort of Rime of the Ancient Mariner set in ancient Rome.
The latest collection from John Langan, who remains one of my favorite living horror writers, is audacious and anomalous for a number of reasons. For one, most of Langan's previous collections have consisted of a handful of longer narratives, often novellas that sometimes rubbed up against short novels. While Children of the Fang has a few of those, including the title story, they're far from the rule, here, where they stand as outliers in a field of sometimes markedly short tales that verge of vignettes.
For another, this is handily Langan's most pulp-inflected collection, while also being perhaps his most metatextual, a combination that sometimes makes for strange bedfellows, even while also giving Children of the Fang the feeling of a collection that could have come out of the British New Wave, which seems appropriate, given some of the writers that Langan cites as influences in the copious author notes at the back of the book.
There are sword-and-sorcery tales in here, and a cyberpunk story. There are instances of Langan doing his best imitation of some of his peers, including a Laird Barron story that Barron could have written. There are lost races of dinosaur folk and spectral T-Rexes. There are also snippets that Langan wrote as tributes to, introductions to, his contemporaries - Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones (who also contributes the introduction), and Joe Pulver. There's a story set in another author's shared world, and a story that's a response to Michael Cisco's Unlanguage.
Often, these are still successful, because Langan is pretty much unfailingly brilliant at what he does, which is to take even the most pulpy and absurd of premise and give it feet of clay that make it feel utterly credible. And it's doing his doorstop of a collection a disservice to say that these small morsels are sometimes less satisfying than we've come to expect from Langan, that, at the end of the day, for all its formal audacity and its genre-spanning leaps, Children of the Fang feels more like a minor work from a master than some of Langan's other collections, most especially The Wide Carnivorous Sky.
Unfair, especially, because however one's mileage varies, there are loads of stories here to soak in, and many of them are favorites of mine. Some, like the title story, are simply premium Langan, showing him doing what he does best. Others are sentimental favorites, including "Hyphae," which I first read when I solicited it from him for Fungi all the way back in 2012, or "The Communion of Saints," a story that only someone like Langan could have sold.
At the end of the day, even if Children of the Fang does prove to be a somewhat minor work in Langan's ultimate oeuvre, a minor Langan work is still something of a masterpiece, and deserves celebrating.
Oh man, what an epic, diverse, and mostly fantastic collection. This is my third Langan book, and I'm convinced the man is a literary genius, even if he gets a bit carried away by his own indulgences sometimes.
When he's on point, Langan writes some of the best short horror in the business. He pulls off some of the most insane story concepts I've ever encountered. "Irezumi" explores Lovecraftian Cyberpunk through tattoos. "Communion of Saints" tells a strangely character driven mystery while featuring movie monsters like a xenomorph, Freddy Krueger, and Hannibal Lecter. The titular CotF spins an epic yarn juxtaposing two grandkids relationship with their hard-edged grandfather and a race of ancient reptilian beings.
Even so, sometimes the stories left me cold or just plain confused. "Slippage," "What You Do Not Bring Forth" and "Sweetums" all left me saying: Dammit John, wtf are you talking about? "Max Berry in the Nearer Precincts" was the one story I didn't finish because Langan just went on and on and on without doing much in terms of character or conflict. But maybe I'll just chock these up to not reading closely enough.
Ultimately, there is some truly incredible fiction in this collection. I recommend reading it slowly, let the stories sit with you awhile.
John Langan is almost certainly my favorite living author. But if you are new to his writing I would not recommend starting here. He shines best in the longer form short stories and novel length writings and the short and clippy stories that, for the most part, make up this collection do not do his prodigious talents the full justice that the three other collections he has released do.
That being said, the longest story in here, 'Children of the Fang', from which the collection takes its collective name, is one of those longer emotionally complex and freaky Langan stories we all know and love par excellence. And that tale alone is worth the price of admission with everything else just a nice, if less interesting, bonus.
Surprisingly varied but inconsistent collection of stories, several of which are quite short and fragmentary. Quality-wise Langan is head-and-shoulders above his peers and this book shows a lot of creativity. But it’s a little more scattered than previous books. Points for ambitious genre hopping though.
I’d read a couple of John Langan stories before and really enjoyed them, but this collection was my first dive into a full book of his. And wow was it amazing. I need more Langan immediately. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Here are some of the highlights of the collection, although they were hard to choose and I honestly wouldn't give any story in the collection less than 4/5 stars.
In "Sweetums," a struggling actress goes to an audition for the new movie of a notorious and difficult director and finds herself acting in a bizarre film with strange events that might be a little too real.
"Muse" is short and sweet and involves a fictionalized Langan and Stephen Graham-Jones conversing in a hotel. Langan asks Graham-Jones where he gets his inspiration, and comes to wish he hadn't.
"Into the Darkness, Fearlessly" involves some really unlikable characters, including the protagonist, but Langan makes the reader care about his fate as he unearths a mystery behind a writer friend's death and his last manuscript.
"Episode Three: On the Great Plains, in the Snow" concerns a ghostly dinosaur and that's really all you need to know about this delightful (and surprisingly touching) weird tale.
In "Tragoidia" a dying man visiting France faces devotees of an old god.
"The Underground Economy" is told from the point of view of a stripper and details the strange events of one night that led to her co-worker's disappearance. I enjoyed the surreal mystery this one leads you pondering.
"The Communion of Saints" bears some giallo influence, so, of course, I loved it. People are being kidnapped by creatures out of horror movies and two detectives, including the world weary Calasso, must hunt down this possibly supernatural killer.
"Inundation" is a brief monster tale set during an apocalyptic flood that teases us with giant underwater creatures only briefly glimpsed. I could read more set in this world.
"Vista" is told in a unique format, through question and answer prompts in a college workshop, and it goes to some pretty weird places.
At the end of the book, Langan has included "Story Notes" which is always a nice touch. I love knowing where authors get their ideas from.
I completely loved this collection, and after reading it, I can't wait to dive into more of Langan's work!
Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies, John Langan's fourth collection, comprises twenty-one short stories thematically bound by the author's influences and responses to other writers, particularly given that several of the shorts reproduced here were originally written for homage anthologies to the likes of Robert W. Chambers and Thomas Ligotti or were written with a particular author (and even a few film directors, like David Lynch and Dario Argento) in mind who acted as a compass and inspiration. These twenty-one works reach far afield, genre-wise, and while the majority of them do sit comfortably within Langan's usual brand of horror, there are also a few sci-fi and fantasy pieces, and even one historical entry set in the day of the Roman Legionnaires.
Langan throws readers right into the deep end with "Sweetums," a trippy story written for Joseph Pulver's Chambers anthology. Fans of Lynch's filmography will be able to recognize the director's imprint on this story immediately, certainly well before Langan confirms it for us in the extensive story notes included at book's end (I'm a sucker for story notes like these and always find it a joy to see what the author has to say about their work and their approach to the material). Set during a film production, "Sweetums" is by turns confusing and surreal, but also intricate and subtle, and the end is a clever whopper that fits well with one of Chambers's most famous creations.
"Hyphae" is another clever winner that begins with an estranged son making a wellness visit to check on his father... but what the heck is that smell, and where, exactly, is it coming from? Langan credits Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King with being his primary influences here and comes through cleanly in the mounting, creeping dread the author induces, while "Into the Darkness, Fearlessly," is very clearly and openly Ligottian (I might even add John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness to the list of inspirations here). It also has one of the best openers of the bunch with its marvelous hook: "The morning after the police found the final piece of Linus Price..."
While I enjoyed virtually the entire collection as a whole, the real treats for me were those brief diversions where Langan was able to really have fun and let his humor shine - and make a few friendly jabs at his fellow authors. "Muse," for instance, is a super enjoyable bit of metafiction (...or is it?) that recounts Langan's discovery of the secret behind Stephen Graham Jones's talents, and it's a wonderful bit of ribbing (especially given Jones's wonderful introduction to this collection!). It also explains a hell of a lot about Jones's own potency as a storyteller! The last story here, "Slippage," centers around Langan and Laird Barron transporting a movie prop from the latter's film adaptation of "-30-" (filmed as They Remain), and taking one heck of a detour.
"Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow" is another entertaining piece that sees Langan at his most whimsical, tossing in cowboys and Indians and race cars and dinosaurs. "Ymir" is a fascinating bit of arctic horror, and given my predilections toward snowy terror this one was an easy favorite for me, even beyond its neat mythology.
"Inundation" and "To See, To Be Seen" were another pair of A+ endeavors. The former takes place on a flooding Earth, and is suitably apocalyptic with its just-barely-glimpsed horrors from the beyond. (Langan again credits King as being his central inspiration here, but no doubt fans of Brian Keene's Earthworm Gods and J.F. Gonzalez's Clickers will find this quite an absorbing read, as well). "To See, To Be Seen" -- this story is absolutely perfect, and the supernatural elements are integrated and layered in fantastic and fascinating ways. The story itself is built off a hidden society of the Friends of Borges, and a secret world that I am absolutely dying to learn more about. I desperately need more stories about the Gullet and the work of this secretive organization.
Fans of Langan's work will find much to appreciate in Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies, including the titular short story which revolves around a brother and sister trying to figure out the secrets their grandfather keeps and what mysteries he has locked away in the basement freezer. Langan's horror is deft and intelligent, occasionally even obscure in the ways really potent cosmic horrors should be, and this book presents more than twenty fine examples of such, each of which point toward larger bodies of work that have helped shape and inspire Langan's own creative sparks. The story notes are certain to provide plenty of inspiration for further reading, too.
So much great stuff here! Another essential collection from one of the top few horror writers we've got. I also really enjoyed the story notes at the end, and wish more collections included them. Highly recommended.
This is a bumper crop of short fiction. In the substantial story notes (which I always enjoy) the author mentions the feeling of cracking open a big collection - King's Skeleton Crew, or Barker's Books of Blood, for example, and Children of the Fang does have that vibe. Indeed, it has a LOT of vibes - with each story seeming to pay homage to at least one horror luminary. This isn;t to say that they don't have their own voice - they most definitely do - but that the tradition, or 'genealogy' as Langan puts it, of horror fiction is present throughout. John Langan is quite the literary ventriloquist, but he also has a set of tools that are very much his own.
One of those tools is his ability to create small, tight stories that hint at a larger scale. Several of these tales are fragments of a national, global, or even cosmic crisis - and though they leave you salivating for more, that's where the power is, in the events beyond the margins that Langan only alludes to. He does it several times, and those stories have left me thinking about what might still be going on in those worlds. One example, the sotruy "Inundation" does this t0 marvellous effect - with the events of single moment in a single suburban street standing in for the whole tapestry of a reality-changing cosmic event.
It's unlikely that every story will satisfy every reader. A couple, such as the uber-cosmic "Ymir", the technohorror "Irezumi", and the oh-so-weird "Vista" left me a little cold and longing for the good stuff. By that I mean either his fun meta takes on the writing industry and his own coterie of writer-friends (in "Muse" and "Into the Darkness, Fearlessly") or the old-school weirdness of "Children of the Fang" and "Episode Three: On the Great Plains, in the Snow". This last features nothing short of a ghost tyrannosaur caught in a re-enactment of the Indian Wars. I mean, what's not to love?
I heartily recommend the collection to all fans of horror, weird, science-fiction or old school pulp. There is a lot of literary expertise on display in Children of the Fang, and Other Genealogies, but mostly it's just absolute blast.
I think the best way to start this is with a comment I made on Twitter a couple weeks ago- I've never read a book so inhabited by worlds. Almost every single story made me want more time with them, more time in those settings, and more time with these characters. I've never read world-building like this before and it blew me away. And not just one world, but over 20 of them, some with ancient histories that go back and some that go beyond.
This collection is mostly comprised of stories Langan wrote for anthologies that were dedicated to particular authors and some of the fun in reading this for me was seeing if I could detect the influence of that author. They influenced Langan in one way or another, and therefore became part of his writing, part of his genealogy (hence the title). It's a really unique way to unify these stories without there being any actual connections between them. The Story Notes actually provide great insight on the influences for the stories and I found myself flipping to the back after each one to see what I could learn about whichever guiding star (his words) led him to write what I'd read. I think I only guessed one right, but it was still fun!
If I have to pick three favorites (and this is hard):
1. With Max Berry In The Nearer Precincts - a story about the light at the end of the tunnel (or is it?) 2. Children of the Fang - a story about a family but also about an entire race and culture of...something else 3. Episode Three: On The Great Plains, In The Snow - a ghost story, but not like any you've read before
And what range! There are stories that happen in the afterlife, stories about ghosts, about beasts, about other dimensions...there's a little (or a lot) here for everyone. Some of it is terrifying, but personally, I was more often filled with wonder and awe at the worlds he constructed. It took me a long time for me to finish this because I wanted to savor each story. Should you decide to embark on these journeys (and you really really should), don't rush because the details in these stories are worth appreciating.
I think John Langan is one of the best weird fiction authors working today or really ever, and it's amazing that he's able to churn out so much work at such a calibre. After dabbling in a couple unsatisfying/less competent weird collections, it was nice to go back to someone who's just rock solid at the craft. But the longer I read, the less excited I felt, until I was kind of dragging myself through the end. I've expressed my annoyance with Langan's previous short story collections for his predilection for indulgent structural/historical experiments over the real shit, and this collection largely eschews those. And it has some great stories in it. I really enjoyed the title story, Children of the Fang; With Max Barry, which delivers the Butcher's Table-style weird hell-fantasy stuff I can't get enough of; and To See, To Be Seen, which gave me some Lynchian vibes (and a somewhat unsatisfying Borges nod), something sorely lacking in this genre. But while the rest of it never really bugged me (with the exception of the interminable Episode Three), and even managed to pull off a solid "weird story about filmmaking," something I almost universally dislike, it's just full of way too many stories that are competently-executed but forgettable.
There's a sense of diminishing returns to the whole exercise. It's not particularly surprising to read in the Story Notes that most of these were written for tribute anthologies, which are a major driver for weird horror fiction in general, and certainly a worthy exercise for new writers. It just feels like a waste of Langan's talents, like he's showing off his skills in the kiddy pool, landing dunk after dunk in a short hoop in different styles and subgenres but never deviating far from the house style, never trying to pull off something really ambitious that only he can do. But I suppose that's easy for me to say.
Ο Langan είναι ένας συγγραφέας φαντασίας/τρόμου, με όραμα, που δεν προσπαθεί να δημιουργήσει τον εύκολο εντυπωσιασμό, τα εργαλεία του δεν είναι τα κλισέ αλλά μια πένα που προσπαθεί να πει όσο καλύτερα μπορεί τις ιστορίες του. Σ' αυτόν τον τόμο παραδίδει μερικές από τις καλύτερες ιστορίες του.
Κάποιος που έχει διαβάσει ιστορίες του, εδώ θα βρει σχεδόν όλα όσα στο παρελθόν έχουν τροφοδοτήσει την φαντασία του, κι ακόμα παραπάνω. Το εύρος της θεματολογίας είναι εξαιρετικά μεγάλο: ιστορίες τρόμους, ιστορίες ε.φ., πειραματικές ιστορίες, λαβκραφ-κικές ιστορίες, και ιστορίες Πόε. Δεν μ' άρεσαν όλες πολύ. Υπήρχε, όμως, ένα εξαιρετικά υψηλό μέσο επίπεδο, και 2-3 ήταν άκρως διασκεδαστικές, σχεδόν εθιστικές στην ανάγνωσή τους. Εξαιρετική στιγμή για μένα αποτέλεσε ο φόρος τιμής στον φίλο του, και αγαπημένο μου, Μπάρον. Θα μπορούσε να την είχε γράψει και ο ίδιος. Ως κορυφαία στιγμή ξεχωρίζω Episode Three: On the Great Plains, in the Snow, που με την Νολαν-ική προσέγγιση ενός ολόκληρου κόσμου εγκιβωτισμένου σ' έναν άλλον, ο Λάνγκαν φτιάχνει μια περιπέτεια όπου μπλέκεται ο τρόμος, η φαντασία, μαζί με μια σπαραξικάρδια μελαγχολία.
Αν σας αρέσει ο τρόμος και η φαντασία, αλλά θέλετε και κάτι καλογραμμένο, θα πρέπει να διαβάσετε Langan. Κι αυτό το βιβλίο είναι μια εξαιρετική αρχή. Όσοι τον γνωρίζετε, να περιμένετε Langan σε μεγάλα κέφια.
A great collection of weird horror! It ended up taking me much longer to read than I originally planned because I quickly realized that this is the kind of collection you want to take your time with and enjoy fully. While I really liked many of these stories, the ones that stuck out to me the most, that I know I'll be going back to read over and over again are "With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts" and "To See, To Be Seen". Absolutely recommend to any horror fan. I think there's something in here for everyone.
Wow. Langan is one of those authors I can be completely certain I'll be drawn into his work, and his latest collection is no exception. My biggest conflict is deciding whether his short stories or his longer fiction is better, and to that I've finally just decided, both. Children of the Fang is a widely varied collection, spanning tone, subject matter, and levels of horror. The recurring theme is a distinct and imitable ability to get under the skin of the reader, unsettle you in every way. It's hard not to be pulled into these stories and feel like there's a truth in them you need to be afraid of - simply closing the book or turning off your kindle isn't going to help you escape that feeling. I can say without question that there is no weak link in this group of stories, that each and every one was enjoyable, and made me think. Standout favorites include Muse, with a fun shout out to current horror authors with a deeply unsettling ending, With Max Berry in the Nearer Precincts, which deals with a unique, horrifying, but somehow aesthetic look at the afterlife, Episode Three: On the Great Plains, in the Snow, which was another, and completely different, haunting look at being a ghost, The Horn of the World's Ending, with a spin on classic mythology, and the story that ends the collection, Slippage. That one contained more fun references, together with glancing references to terror, and a feeling that the world is only one slip away from the nightmares we ourselves create. If you haven't read John Langan, do yourself a favor. It's a reading experience you won't walk away from unscathed.
If you're going to read this, it's helpful to know that each piece was written for specific anthologies or collections as tributes to prominent authors in the horror genre. This leads to a collection where immediately you can tell what author/artist Langan is paying homage to within a paragraph or two (thankfully there isn't much Lovecraft, but that's just my taste). Similar to an album by a cover band, it's not so much about the material, but the style it is performed in. Langan is pretty decent at shifting voice and tone to fit the "cover" but it leads to the jack of all trades master of none outcome. There are standouts that really stuck with me; "Irezumi" with wild technological fueled nightmare voids, "The Horn of the World's Ending" has a great setting and narrative, "What You Do Not Bring Forth" blurs the lines between reality and creation, "Vista" is bizarre and creepy, "The Underground Economy" is my personal favorite which left me wanting more (in the good way) and interested me in the author that inspired it, Robert Aickman.
The rest of the anthology is full of neat ideas that fail to follow through on execution for me in one way or another, but it's pretty much a solid effort. But maybe cut back on saying everything smells like spoiled milk in the future?
John Langan, man. This guy knows what he's doing. The stories within this collection are from a variety of sources, with one original to the collection. The plots and styles are, not surprisingly, varied as a result. Most of the stories here were great; personal favorites include "Sweetums" and the stretch of stories from "With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts" to "Ymir". The story notes at the end list what authors, directors, etc. he was inspired by while writing them, and it's a solid list of folks. Most, I can't claim an extreme level of familiarity with (e.g. Stephen King or Peter Straub; both on my list) but there was some Michael Cisco, some Laird Barron, some David Lynch, etc. Always great to see story notes and authors giving credit or praise or whatever to others. And always great to see new John Langan material available.
I finally finished Children of the Fang last night by the criminally underappreciated John Langan.
I took my time with this collection of shorts as you have to savour each one. Langan has the ability to write something that frequently reverberates around your head for days. He has some serious talent and this collection is so diverse you get to see it in every tale.
If you haven't read any Langan then I urge you to do so. If you're not a fan of short stories (then you're weird) then get stuck into The Fisherman. You won't regret it!
Children of the Fang is a hodgepodge of short stories generally intended for other, specifically themed collections but brought together here in one place. Langan offered these stories to be inclusions in Lovecraftian, weird fiction anthologies, in some cases with very specific themes and threads.
In this particular collection, Langan emphasizes the fact that most if not all have some connection to a specific author who has influenced Langan’s writing, and the stories are written with that in mind. This is the loose thread weaving through all of them; Langan provides story notes at the very end to assure us we make the connections and to give a little perspective on each one’s origins.
I love detail like this. I think this insight makes for a fuller experience and enjoyment of each story. However in my case, many of Langan’s influences, while legends and pioneers in the genre, in some cases don’t hold much appeal to me. I’m not a big Lovevraft guy and don’t really know who Robert Chambers or Joe Pulver were. As such, the homage to their style is lost on me and I then evaluate the story as a story, simply for entertainment. So in several cases I found myself just not getting it at all. Several of the stories later on in the book, had they been presented earlier, may have triggered a DNF result as they just didn’t do much for me.
There were, however, several excellent stories which were traditionally more to my liking. “Hyphae”, in which a son finds his father has planted a new direction for his life, is a fungus growing in my mind. “Into the Darkness Fearlessly” is a stunner of art imitating life and a demon succubus. And the title story, “Children of the Fang”, is a good old fashioned weird riff on a Lovecraft trope with slippery skin. “With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts” also is a fine tale of a heaven we are unfamiliar with brought to visceral, detailed life.
There is no doubt Langan writes superb literate fiction. And again, each of these stories, when taken in the context for which they were originally intended, likely stood out in each collection. But taken as a whole here and tethered together by way of literary influence (genealogy), the result can be a little uneven given the tremendously wide spectrum of styles. Not my favorite Langan book, but that won’t stop me from picking up whatever he decides publish .
Have you ever found yourself staring down from a great height, or gazing into a bright light for too long, only to step back from the edge or turn the light off - and find that you can't quite shake that dizzying feeling of unease? Like some sort of liminal threshold has been crossed, and you need a bit of time to readjust to your surroundings?
That was what reading this short story collection was like for me.
After only having read The Fisherman (one of my top 5 favourite books), I wanted to dive into more of the author's work, and I'm so glad I did. Langan has a way of coaxing the monstrous out of the mundane, which never fails to absolutely terrify me.
We've got ancient lizard-people, a warhorn that summons demon-goats from hell, movie horror-villains come to life, a sacrificial pagan ritual, and even a great big space slug.
I didn't anticipate how diverse these stories would be. While I would consider most of the stories to be cosmic horror fiction, the author showcases his versatility as a writer by giving us some great folk-horror, body-horror, fantasy, and even some sci-fi offerings.
All this being said, I still felt like I was zooming in on different sections of the same tapestry, or, rather - exploring diverging branches of the same family tree. I really enjoyed how each of the stories bear a connection to the writers that have inspired Langan himself.
One of my favourite stories was With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts, a tale of one man's Lovecraftian journey into the afterlife, told from beyond the grave. While not every story was to my liking, as a whole I really enjoyed this collection and would recommend it to horror and sci-fi fans alike.
This is my second time through this one, and I’m sad to say that it doesn’t hold up. Maybe it’s because I’m reading all of Langan’s books right now, but this one just seemed to be lacking somehow.
This time through his complete works, I’ve noticed a certain rhythm to Langan’s story collections: they always start extremely strong, with stories full of interesting turns of phrase, vibrant characters, and creepy scenarios. They last few stories are always cut from the same cloth. Sandwiched in between those ends, however, there are always a few stories that are not of the same caliber: weaker writing, less compelling or incomplete plots, or (in the case of this collection) stories that really only mean something to the person they were written for—in-jokes for the horror community, as it were.
While this is true of all of Langan’s collections, the amount of filler in the middle of the Children of the Fang sandwich is far greater than usual. The good stories on either end are very good; but there is a lot to slog through.
John Langan is an absolute genius and treasure that we are not worthy of. This collection of stories is a mind bending, reality questioning, seep into your skin, horror injection that will stick with you. When I had to do things like work, eat, bathe, be normal, I decided instead to read this. And when I finished it I had a tough time not going back and rereading it. There are things in here that you haven't seen and probably shouldn't see, but let's be honest, you'll want to see them because it's Langan.
Get this book and be ready to experience something terrifying.