by Mark Samuels
Published by Chômu Press, 2011.
Chômu Press continue their mission of “publishing fiction that is both imaginative and unhindered by considerations of genre” by producing this marvellous collection. Previously available as a limited edition collection from Ex Occidente this edition is a much more affordable way to sample Mark Samuel’s work. And for those who already have the limited edition version this also contains one brand new story, The Tower and believe me that alone is worth the cover price.
These eleven stories explore the dark corners of Mark Samuels earth in extraordinary fashion, beginning with the eastern european weirdness of the Losenef Express. A gritty and dark drama with a neat twist takes us to a place in a “state of decay” and a mind almost as dark. The Man Who Collected Machen not only invokes the dark glories of Arthur Machen via the title but also in style. A collector of Machen’s work is invited to sample the most “obscure Machenalia” but ends up paying a high price in a journey into an “occult territory” with its own hill of dreams.
THYXXOLQU explores the power of language. Owen Barclay finds himself confronted by increasing examples of a strange script in everyday circumstances. Eventually becoming aware that “language is the foundation of reality”. The Black Mould is a cosmic horror of Lovecraftian proportions with a distinctly (and very welcome) old school feel. Xapalpa takes us to strange and very weird ceremony in an obscure mexican town.
Glickman The Bilbliophile sees random acts of book destruction occurring and gradually escalating. Henry Glickman discovers the dark forces behind these acts and “the falsity of literature”. A Question Of Obeying Orders is a dark and atmospheric wartime tale of Vampyr, but far stranger than typical vampire fare. Nor Unto Death Utterly invokes the spirit of Poe in an excellent journey to a remote abbey a “place isolated… by an aura of spiritual desolation”. A Contaminated Text returns us to a library in Mexico where a virus infects the text of the books with devestating consequences.
The Age Of Decayed Futurity takes us into a world where “dreamlike visions from the depths of imagination take over completely”. It’s a devestating account of the power of mass media and its possible consequences. Finally The Tower is a remarkable exploration of the human mind. Full of powerful, visionary, poetic imagery with a dark nihilistic worldview this is a tale of despair that is both wonderous and frightening at the same time. Here Mark Samuels stands alongside the likes of Thomas Ligotti as a true master of the bleak word.
It’s hard to review such a fine collection without choking on hyperbole but Mark Samuels has, within 178 pages, created a masterpiece to stand alongside the likes of Ligotti, Machen, Poe and Lovecraft. This is a beautifully written, powerful yet accessible book. The world of Weird fiction is often obscured by the shadowy wraiths of the past masters but with this collection Samuels shines a torch on them all, invokes their spirits and shows that he has every right to join the pantheon.
5 out of 5