Brian's Reviews > Low Red Moon

Low Red Moon by Caitlín R. Kiernan
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bookshelves: cthulhu-mythos, horror, romance, wainscot

I initially read Threshold and thought it was horrible, so I figured that all the buzz I had heard about Caitlín Kiernan was just hype. But then I read Daughter of Hounds and I thought it was pretty good, so I figured I'd come back and read Low Red Moon. And it was...okay.

Horror is a fragile thing. It's relatively easy for it to tip over into amusement if events or characters get too unbelieveable, as movies like the Evil Dead series aptly demonstrate, but it's just as easy for the mood to entirely evaporate from a single incident or character. I suspect that's part of why I never really got into Low Red Moon, since after suffering through Threshold, I didn't particularly care about Deacon Silvey or Chance now-Silvey. I already read a book about them where none of the events even mattered, as shown by how they didn't mention them at all and the dreamscape ending of Threshold apparently came down to "nothin happened i dunno lol" in the grand scheme of things, with only a single reference to old rail tunnel thrown in to indicate that events in that book even happened or still affected the Silveys' lives.

The other problem I had with the horror elements was with the villain. Or maybe I should say the villains, because Narcissa as portrayed when she's the viewpoint character and Narcissa through the eyes of others were basically two entirely different people. In her own head, Narcissa is mostly a sad failure, a rejected child who wasn't even taken by the hounds and has spent her whole life murdering people to try to get into their good graces. She constantly hears the voices of the people she's killed, lives like an animal--literally in some cases, going naked and killing squirrels for food with her bare hands--and other than the murdering people she's mostly an object of pity. She has no affection, no friends, no real life, and the only thing in the world she wants is the one thing she can't have.

Though other people's eyes, she's a hypercompetent supernatural movie serial killer. You know what I mean, the kind who can teleport and has a Metal Gear-style minimap in her vision telling her where everyone is and what direction they're facing so she can spawn in behind them and is almost immune to bullets despite wearing only blood and who cannot be stopped or defeated in any way until a plot-relevant climax. And while it's true that she has a reason for her seemingly-supernatural powers--to wit, having actual supernatural powers by virtue of having read the Cultes des Goules and a passel of other eldritch tomes from her grandfather's library--it's still really jarring comparing this version of Narcissa to the other one.

And sure, it could just be the point of view. A lot of Kiernan's work hinges on issues of perception, from the vital-to-the-plot issue of Deacon's clairvoyance to the visions that Chance experiences throughout Low Red Moon to the existence (or not) of the monsters in Threshold. And at least in this book we know that there is a real threat and that the plot isn't just constant hallucinations, but it still annoyed me because the supernatural serial killer is such an overused trope that I've become jaded to it even when there's an actual legitimate reason for it. Oh, another unstoppable killer that the police can't catch. How terrifying. I've never seen something like that before.

Also, in response to a question from Deacon, Sadie mentions that in her writing she used to combine words to make new adjectives but stopped because it just pissed people off. Ha ha. Very funny, Kiernan.

The parts I did like were all the mundane aspects of Deacon and Chance's relationship, the story of two people trying to make a life for each other but being haunted by the figurative ghosts of their past. Chance keeps saying that Deacon's only job is to stay sober, but a negative isn't really enough to spend all your time on. Throughout the book, there's always that question hanging in the air: can he avoid going back to his old life? Has Deacon really turned a new leaf, and will his relationship with Chance manage to survive when his past returns from the box he stuffed it in?

I would almost have rather read a novel entirely about that, though without Deacon's psychic powers most of the rest of his past unravels too and it would be a completely different novel and so such a wish is inherently self-destructive. But since Narcissa and her story did nothing for me, I would have preferred the attempt at that to what I read in the end.
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Reading Progress

August 9, 2012 – Shelved
July 25, 2014 – Started Reading
July 29, 2014 – Shelved as: cthulhu-mythos
July 29, 2014 – Shelved as: horror
July 29, 2014 – Shelved as: romance
July 29, 2014 – Finished Reading
August 10, 2014 – Shelved as: wainscot

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