This magnificent collection of weird fiction with a spiritual twist is certainly a must-read of the year. A compilation of many old, new, and reworked stories from Matt Cardin, To Rouse Leviathan dissolves just the right dose of theological and metaphysical speculation into the bleak medium of Ligottian pessimism. The result is an absolute gem for fans of Lovecraft, Ligotti, or weird fiction in general. This book is a particularly bright point 2019’s dazzling array of releases.
Nicholas Day follows up last year’s novella, At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames, with a crushingly bleak debut novel, Grind Your Bones to Dust. Liberally spangled with moments of true, hair-raising horror, this is Day’s darkest and most accomplished work yet. Not many books can inspire genuine comparisons with harrowing masterpieces such as Blood Meridian and The Painted Bird–that these comparisons present themselves naturally throughout the span of Day’s blood soaked nightmare is a strong testimony to its greatness.
The Half Freaks wields Nicole Cushing’s delicious brand of authorial metanarrative to tell a weird tale of hideous and downtrodden characters. Although the plot is relatively simple–a strange, sad man inhabits a strange, sad world and encounters much strangeness along the way–Cushing manages to brilliantly engage the reader with forays into her own authorial process in a way that feels neither intrusive nor unwelcome. This book gallantly displays Cushing’s ever-expanding talent, and should leave most readers with little doubt that she’s one of weird fiction’s most unique and important voices.
Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts is S. L. Edwards’ debut collection, and it certainly packs quite a punch. Fans of T. E. Grau will find much to appreciate here, particularly if last year’s I Am The River awakened a hunger for war-themed weird fiction that has been difficult to satisfy. Dark, disturbing, yet deeply humane, Edwards’ collection will certainly leave an impression on readers that outlasts the year. You haven’t fully experienced weird fiction in 2019 without this one. See our full review of Whiskey here.
Somehow, Nathan Ballingrud has managed to put together a collection that many readers claim exceeds even 2013’s North American Lake Monsters. While I’m not prepared to make such a bold statement myself (I really, really liked North American Lake Monsters), Wounds is certainly a sight to behold. Ballingrud’s prose sparks here with vividly unsettling energy, climaxing in what could very well be the greatest story of the year, “The Visible Filth.” There’s not a single misstep in Wounds–it’s certainly destined to become a classic.
Song for the Unraveling of the World manages to condense and amplify every element we’ve all grown to love in Brian Evenson’s work. Although it feels a little blasphemous to write it, Evenson’s latest collection is perhaps even better than 2016’s A Collapse of Horses. His stripped down prose is sharper than ever, and his penchant for subtly peeling away the frail sheaf of normality to expose the horrors beneath has grown masterful. Expect the places, people, and events that Evenson conjures here to haunt you well after you’ve finished reading.
If any reader still questions the success of weird fiction in 2019, Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts makes a strong case against them. This divisive and challenging follow up to Borne is bold, forward thinking, and absolutely breathtaking. Here, VanderMeer sets out to immerse readers in a mind bending universe full of color–don’t expect simplistic narratives or clear answers to the many questions you will inevitably find yourself asking along the way. With a painstaking attention to detail, VanderMeer’s novel is truly unlike anything I’ve read before. It generously repays the effort it costs to read.
Scott Dwyer has certainly managed to pull together an impressive array of talent with Plutonian Press’ latest anthology, Pluto in Furs. Named after the darkly erotic novel by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, this bold collection explores the intersection between horror and sex. Readers are treated to fourteen pieces of horror and weird fiction that center around the sexualized body, resulting in brilliant flashes of body horror, unsettlingly dark erotica, and a wide expanse of territory in between. Featuring writers like Gemma Files, David Peak, and Jeffrey Thomas, this is certainly among the best anthologies to be released this year.
Nightscape Press’ highly anticipated Nox Pareidolia is everything readers hoped it would be and more. Boasting yet another supercharged TOC full of names like Laird Barron, S.P. Miskowski, Brian Evenson, Gwendolyn Kiste, Micheal Wehunt, Kristi DeMeester, and more, Robert Wilson’s brilliant anthology gleefully inhabits the ambiguous spaces of weird fiction. There’s much between these pages to dwell on–many of the stories shine right along with the best of each author’s frequently impressive catalogue. Among anthologies released this year, Nox Pareidolia stands more than comfortably among the best.
No film director quite deserves a tribute anthology like David Cronenberg, and it’s truly amazing, in retrospect, that one took this long to resurface. Weird Punk Books succeeds brilliantly with this diverse accumulation of talent, boasting appearances from Brian Evenson, Cody Goodfellow, Gwendolyn Kiste, and many more. The stories presented here remain faithful to Cronenberg’s disturbing renderings of body horror without failing to add much in the way of unique voice. There aren’t many dull moments along the way–consider this essential if you admire Cronenberg’s wonderful work.