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The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies [Kindle Edition]

John Langan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

John Langan has, in the last few years, established himself as one of the leading voices in contemporary horror literature. Gifted with a supple and mellifluous prose style, an imagination that can conjure up clutching terrors with seeming effortlessness, and a thorough knowledge of the rich heritage of weird fiction, Langan has already garnered his share of accolades. This new collection of nine substantial stories includes such masterworks as “Technicolor,” an ingenious riff on Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”; “How the Day Runs Down,” a gripping tale of the undead; and “The Shallows,” a powerful tale of the Cthulhu Mythos. The capstone to the collection is a previously unpublished novella of supernatural terror, “Mother of Stone.” With an introduction by Jeffrey Ford and an afterword by Laird Barron.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 882 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Hippocampus Press (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EB04U4W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,135 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent & Unusual Collection 11 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
John Langan's horror stories in this collection stand out because they are each unique, each being told from a different perspective or in a different tense, and either covering new ground or old ground in a new way. The zombie story for example is as a piece of theatre, a werewolf take from the reader's own perspective, and there are other Lovecraftian-style tales of weirdness that are just excellent reads.

I really enjoyed these short stories; I haven't come across this author before but will be keeping an eye out for further works.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding horror fiction! 9 Jan. 2014
Before I begin to analyze the contents of The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, I'll mention that a lot has already been written about it and several critics and readers have praised it. That's why writing a review about this collection is a bit difficult, but I'll try to think of something new to say.

John Langan is an author who probably needs no introduction to horror readers. Just in case somebody doesn't know him, I can say that he's one of the best writers of horror and dark fantasy. He writes dark and original stories that both fascinate and shock the readers. His stories have appeared in several anthologies.

I personally became acquainted with John Langan's stories by reading Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters and House of Windows. I loved both of them and can highly recommend to everybody who likes good and well written horror fiction.

I confess that I'm a passionate fan of dark fantasy, horror and weird fiction, and I especially love literary stories. That's why it was a pleasure to read and review The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies. I can honestly say that it's one of the best horror collections that have been published during the last couple of years. This collection contains stylistic storytelling, weirdness, disturbing elements and excellent prose. It belogs to the same quality group of books as Laird Barron's The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and Richard Gavin's At Fear's Altar.

This collection contains nine stories of varying length and themes. The stories are:

- Kids
- How the Day Runs Down
- Technicolor
- The Wide, Carnivorous Sky
- City of the Dog
- The Shallows
- The Revel
- June, 1987. Hitchhiking, Mr.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection offering a variety of horrors. 9 May 2013
By Justin Steele - Published on
John Langan's name has been in numerous "year's best" horror anthologies, and for good reason. The man can write, and the more he writes the better he gets. Langan's previous collection, Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters, was an astounding set of stories. I've yet to read his novel, House of Windows, although I've heard nothing but good things about it.

The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies has much to offer horror fans of all kinds. Langan enjoys playing with familiar horror tropes, but in a totally unfamiliar way. He is a stylist, and his stories are all fresh and unique.

The collections open with a vignette, Kids, a story from the collection Jack Haringa Must Die! For unfamiliar readers, Jack Haringa is a member of the Board of Advisers for the Shirley Jackson Awards. The collection featured almost thirty short pieces of flash fiction in which Jack Haringa met his untimely doom. Langan's contribution is a short take featuring child zombies. It's really short, and fun, but the weakest of all the stories.

How the Day Runs Down serves as a prime example of Langan's stylistic storytelling. This zombie tale reads like a play, and features a stage manager in a mysterious theater talking about the zombie outbreak. The manager's monologues are broken by appearances of other characters, who tell their own personal stories. This story has a good amount of humor, although at times it tugs at the emotions.

I first read Technicolor in one of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year anthologies, although it first appeared in her Poe anthology. This story is a brilliant look at one of Poe's famous tales, The Masque of the Red Death. The narrative once again stands out, as the entire story is told in the voice of a professor as he examines Poe's story and the meaning behind it.

The title story, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, is one of the best vampire tales I've ever read and serves as a perfect example of the way Langan plays with familiar horror tropes. Vampires are typically nocturnal creatures, who spend the daytime sleeping in underground coffins. But Langan's "vampire" instead spends it's days hunting for prey and it's nights resting in a floating "coffin". In the story notes Langan said that as opposed to having his horror in a smaller, claustrophobic setting he wanted to instead embrace the open, and it doing so creates a true "bird (bat) of prey". Add to the mix some army veterans dealing with PTSD and the result is a truly brilliant story.

City of the Dog is another story I first read in one of Datlow's best-of anthologies, and another favorite of mine. Drawing from his own personal experiences, Langan takes readers to an early 90's Albany. The narrator is stuck in a most awkward living situation, with a relationship that is falling apart. Things only get worse when the things living under the city get involved. A great story, fans of Lovecraft's ghouls will have a good time with this one.

The Shallows first appeared in the anthology Cthulhu's Reign. This book's concept was that all the stories would take place AFTER the stars were right and Cthulhu and the old ones rise. Lovecraftians will know what I'm talking about. The Shallows is a stand out story in that anthology. Langan's approach wasn't as grandiose as some of the others in the book, as he decided to take a look at a rather mundane day in the life of a simple, middle-aged man. The man goes about his daily activities, talking to a crab creature that follows him around like a pet. The bizarre has become commonplace for this fellow, although it's creepy enough for readers. The story's true strength lies in the relationship of the father and his son, and is just as much about what it's like for a father when his son becomes independent. Another excellent story.

Langan's approach to the werewolf in The Revel also succeeds as an attempt to break down horror film. Another stylistic approach, the story reads as meta-fiction, and even breaks the fourth wall. One would think it would be difficult to write a piece of fiction that manages to foster terror in the reader while reading like a detached film study, but Langan more than succeeds. Another story I have to mark as a favorite.

June, 1987. Hitchhiking. Mr. Norris. is a short story much in the same spirit as the earlier kids. This time the target is horror author Laird Barron, who was subject to a literary "roast" when several authors of the weird posted stories from "The Secret Life of Laird Barron" to their blogs. While several of the stories were strictly humorous, Langan's manages to be quite dark as well. The story's plot deals with the danger of hitchhiking, while evoking darker, more ancient horrors.

The collection ends with an original story, which is also my overall favorite, the novella Mother of Stone. The story is penned in the risky second-person, a style of narrative which is hard to make work. This time, however, it does work, creating a slight distance that correlates with the protagonists general detachment. The story itself is a series of interviews conducted with several people in a small town pertaining to a mysterious statue unearthed and put on a display at a local Inn, and the bizarre and fatal incidents that followed. The story has some frightening imagery, and so perfectly evokes dread in the reader. I found myself thoroughly creeped out and disturbed, and I mean that as a compliment.

Langan's second collection is, as a whole, astounding. The variety of subject matter paired with his varied stylistic approaches makes for a horror collection that satisfies on many levels. An excellent collection, I highly recommend it to any fan of horror.

Originally appeared on my blog, The Arkham Digest.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expanding the Boundaries of Horror 31 July 2013
By S. P. Miskowski - Published on
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus Press), collects nine of John Langan's stories, several of which have appeared in popular anthologies. They range in length from riff ("Kids") to novelette ("The Wide, Carnivorous Sky") and feature zombies, vampires, werewolves, and serial killers. Despite the array of fantastic creatures, Langan's fiction unfolds out of the darkest recesses of human nature.

The title story centers on a vampire that spends its nights hovering in an impenetrable coffin above the Earth, and its days preying upon humans at sites of extreme conflict. Because it only ventures forth in the midst of carnage, its presence goes undetected. Only by piecing together their memories of battles in Iraq can a small band of U.S. veterans discover the vampire's modus operandi and attempt to track and destroy it. The brilliance of the story is its seamless conflation of a supernatural occurrence, well-crafted action-adventure, and the hallucinatory effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"June, 1987. Hitchhiking. Mr. Norris." is a brief and darkly humorous cautionary tale about the dangers of hitching a ride and the mysteriousness of strangers. "How the Day Runs Down" is structured as a theatrical performance in which a stage manager directs attention to various stories of a developing zombie apocalypse, all in the manner of the beloved Thornton Wilder play, "Our Town."

In this collection my favorite story is "Technicolor." Part of the appeal is the contrast between the "safe" academic setting and the disturbing undercurrents, which become more apparent with every passing moment.

Following a typical reading assignment, a professor leads a classroom full of students through his lecture on the themes embedded in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death." Anyone who ever had to sit through such a lecture will recognize the professor's mild boredom with his dull acolytes. His asides and sudden tangents perfectly evoke the atmosphere of the class, so that the author never has to resort to physical description.

The professor shows practiced patience with the half-hearted insights offered by people half his age, who are more interested in earning an English credit than in learning how and why Poe constructed his weird classic. Beginning with a recitation of the color scheme of the Poe story, the professor moves on to relate the extraordinary life history of a man whose writings supposedly inspired the master of the macabre in the early19th century.

Serving in Napoleon's army, Prosper Vauglais barely survives the disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812. In fact, his physical survival is a subject of some dispute. Later he is said to have led a band of occultists through some bizarre experiments in the Catacombs of Paris. Prosper Vauglais is such a wicked and superb bit of meta-fiction that I attempted not one but two Google searches just to see if he was based on any particular, historical individual.

The character's writings interest Poe when he first discovers them in a Baltimore bookstore. Then, in the later years of his life, when grief and dissolution begin to overwhelm Poe, the oddly compelling diagrams created by Vauglais become an all-consuming obsession.

I won't spoil the fun by describing how these two biographical stories-one the true account of a fiction writer's life and the other a fictional yet believable account-are entwined. (Here's a hint: Compare Prosper Vauglais, Poe's Prince Prospero, the fate of Poe's wife, and the myth of Proserpina.) The way in which Langan allows his themes to emerge in the framing story is nothing short of divine.

John Langan is an author whose work I read both for pleasure and because I learn something about the art of fiction in each story. With every tale he draws the reader inexorably deeper into a world of strange and terrible wonders, while expanding the conceptual boundaries of horror. His use of literary devices is assured, seemingly organic, and never self-conscious.

Above all, Langan allows each story to unfold naturally and at its own pace. No matter which trope or convention he employs, nothing is formulaic or forced. Every character conveys the feeling of a life lived fully, both on and off the page. Every story is vivid and surprising. Read this collection and you'll see what I mean.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour of Monstrous Geographies 26 May 2013
By Orrin Grey - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Langan is one of my favorite living writers. There are people whose writing I love, and people who write about things that I love, in ways that I love. Then there are people who combine all of that. John's one of that latter group.

His first collection and his novel were both pretty great, but it's in the stories that comprise The Wide Carnivorous Sky & Other Monsterous Geographies (look at that subtitle, how could I not love this book?) that his full promise begins to really deliver. I'd read about half this book's contents before, in various places, but I gladly read those stories again, and devoured the new ones, and then as soon as I was finished went to reach immediately for his next collection, only to realize with grim sadness that it's probably a year or two away, still.

My favorite of these stories is probably still "Technicolor," which I've loved since I first read it in Ellen Datlow's Poe anthology, but it's got some serious competition from Langan's masterful deconstruction of the werewolf story "The Revel" and the original novella that closes the book, "Mother of Stone," a second-person exorcism tale that kept me up past my bedtime.

The book is rounded out by what is essentially a bonus new story by Laird Barron, and some extensive author notes from John. As a devotee of author notes myself, I can say that John's are always worth the price of admission, and are some of the only ones around that are ever anywhere near as extensive as I would always like them to be.

Now that I'm done reading, I've got to go and hide this book from myself so that it doesn't upset my to-read list once more so I can read it again.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 26 Feb. 2014
By Tannhauser - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. "Technicolor" is one of the best stories I've ever read. This is truly one of the best horror books I've set my hands on.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Langan _THE WIDE, CARNIVOUROUS SKY and Other Monstrous Geographies_ 26 Jun. 2013
By Jody L Rose - Published on
Dark fiction collection _THE WIDE, CARNIVOROUS SKY and Other Monstrous Geographies_ by John Langan is one of the more outstanding horror collections published in recent history, and will most likely be nominated for literary awards. With an insightful introduction penned by author Jeffrey Ford, and an entertaining afterword written by horror-slash-crime-noir author Laird Barron, _THE WIDE, CARNIVOROUS SKY and Other Monstrous Geographies_ takes readers into strange locales where the weirdest werewolves and deadliest monsters horrify the senses and leave readers crazy for more. But don't expect conventional tropes in these tales. Nothing about Langan and his stories can be described as conventional or ordinary. And take along a flashlight . . . and a good length of rope. You will need both, while you maintain a profound hope that you will find your way out again. Strange things can happen while reading these stories. Lights can go out, your ears can get silenced, your vision occluded. Not to mention what can happen to your mouth. So be prepared, and be forewarned.
You will enjoy reading John Langan's Story Notes at the back of the collection.
Highly recommended.
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