At Fear's Altar Paperback – 31 Oct 2012
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Top customer reviews
At Fear's Altar contains the following masterfully written stories:
- Prologue: A Gate of Nerves
- Chapel in the Reeds
- The Abject
- Faint Baying from Afar
- The Unbound
- A Pallid Devil, Bearing Cypress
- King Him
- The Plain
- Only Enuma Elish
- The Word-Made Flesh
- Darksome Leaves
- The Eldritch Faith
Classic horror, modern horror, weird fiction and cosmic horror are the key words which define the stories in this collection. I haven't read anything this good since I read Laird Barron's The Croning and Donald Michael Platt's A Gathering of Vultures. I have to mention that I was very impressed by this collection, because in my opinion this collection is slightly better than the previous collection, The Darkly Splendid Realm, which was an amazing achievement. I enjoyed each story (to be honest, I would've liked to read more stories).
At Fear's Altar is a delightful and shocking collection of dark and disturbing wonders to readers who love dark stories and weird fiction. Richard Gavin's writing combines classic and traditional horror with modern themes in a fascinating way. Richard Gavin's stories feel fresh, but they're loyal to the traditional stories, which form the basis of the everlasting popularity of weird fiction.
The prologue (A Gate of Nerves) creates a chilling atmosphere, because the protagonists have a weird gathering. The purpose of this gathering is to invoke an entity. I loved the way the author wrote about the gathering and what happened at the end of the story.
Faint Baying from Afar and The Unbound are stunningly good tributes to H. P. Lovecraft (Faint Baying from Afar is subtitled 'An Epistolary Trail after H. P. Lovecraft's "The Hound"' and The Unbound is subtitled 'A Meditation upon H. P. Lovecraft's "The Unnamable"'). I was surprised by how well and lovingly the author has written these stories. Both stories are fascinating in their weirdness. I think that if H. P. Lovecraft were alive, he'd like to call these stories his own stories.
It's a bit difficult for me to choose my favourite story, but if I had to choose only one story it would without a doubt be The Abject. It's a brilliantly written horror story, which is in equal parts cosmic horror and modern horror. In this story a group of people gather to watch a lunar eclipse and one of them tells a story about a mountain, which can be seen in the ocean (the story of the mountain will appeal to everybody who loves cosmic stories). The author writes fantastically about the characters and their lives. He even writes about things related to sexuality.
I think I'll have to mention that I loved Chapel in the Reeds, because it isn't often that authors write this fluently about old men, their lives and fears. Chapel in the Reeds is a splendid and well written story about an old man who slowly loses his sanity due to his age. The loss of his sanity is described in vivid and disturbing details, which make the story psychologically challenging and terrifying. I think that everybody who reads this story will agree with me when I say that it's one of the most terrifying stories in this collection.
Richard Gavin's stories remind me quite a lot of the stories written by the old masters of horror (H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood). His writing is nuanced and he writes terrifyingly about the fates of his characters. He has an ability to add slowly building feelings of dread - these feelings of dread build towards a climax which is shocking and ingenious. In other words, he spices his stories carefully with hints of dark happenings and then masterfully builds tension towards the end.
It's actually amazing how good a writer Richard Gavin is. I've noticed that several authors, who are fans of classic weird fiction and old horror stories, tend write much better and more psychologically challenging horror stories than authors who have aren't familiar with classic horror. This, in my opinion, is a mark of a good and talented horror author - this mark distinguishes a quality horror author from other authors (there are, of course, a few exceptions to this "rule").
By the way, if somebody thinks that I'm a spokesperson for weird fiction and quality horror, I can say that I love good and well written weird fiction and quality horror very much and I always will love both, so that's one of the reasons why I praise them. Stories, which can be catogorized as weird fiction, are often genuinely fascinating and beautifully written stories, so it's difficult not to praise them.
The author explores human feelings, loneliness, aging, love and painful in this collection in a remarkable way. I think that this collection is a testament to the fact that speculative fiction can address several difficult themes much better and sometimes more thoroughly and touchingly than mainstream books. When difficult themes, psychological fear and fear of supernatural things meet each other, the result is truly stunning and it has an everlasting effect on the reader.
I already mentioned cosmic horror a couple of paragrahs ago, so now I'll write more about it. One of the trademarks of cosmic horror is that the cosmos is indifferent towards humanity. Richard Gavin uses this trademark to his advantage, because he combines human feelings and the indifference of the cosmos in a fresh way.
It's great that Richard Gavin writes about different locations in his stories. He writes as fluently about Canadian wilderness as about Lovecraft's New England. His stories are versatile and range all the way from weird fiction to modern horror and from dark fantasy to classic horror, so it's good that he has chosen to write about different locations, because the use of these locations demonstrates that weird and terrifying things can happen anywhere and at any time.
Although Richard Gavin uses plenty of traditional weird fiction and horror elements in his stories, his stories are original. He has a unique voice of his own and his stories feel fresh and visceral.
Just like Laird Barron, Richard Gavin is an author who deserves all the praise he gets. I'm sure that everybody, who is familiar with weird fiction and classic horror, will agree with me on this. Newcomers, who aren't familiar with weird fiction, will also love these stories, because they're quality stories with plenty of dark fantasy elements and visceral happenings. I'll also mention that I think that readers who have read stories by classic horror authors and modern masters (Laird Barron, Clive Barker, Livia Llewellyn, W. H. Pugmire etc) will be impressed by these stories.
I loved At Fear's Altar and I'm sure other readers will love it too, because Richard Gavin is one of the new masters of weird fiction and his stories are perfect entertainment for horror readers. At Fear's Altar is one of the best new horror short story collections, so make sure that you'll read it as soon as possible.
Highly recommended to fans of dark fantasy and quality horror!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Anyways I want to say the rest of the book was some of the finest weird fiction I've read. Chapel in the Reeds is a sad and disturbing story about a mans descent into dementia that presents to him like a horrible nightmare. I really felt for Colin and not only were his hallucinations disturbing but the way he loses control of reality made me uncomfortable. The Abject is about a group of friends going to watch an eclipse on some cursed mountains that eventually drives them a couple of them over the edge. A Pallid Devil, Bearing Cypress is probably my favorite tale in the whole collection. It's about a man searching for something evil during bomb raids on his town and when he locates it he discovers more evil and deception than he bargained for. The Plain is also a very very good one about a man who wakes up in a haunted desert after a search for gold with two other men. He assumes he has been double crossed and left for dead, which maybe true, but he learns no one really got away with anything. Loved Annexation too. At a dying Husband's request Mary sets out to locate their estranged son who left them many years ago seeking some dark spiritual refuge. She discovers a lot about herself and how disturbed her son truly was. Darksome Leaves is a Ligottish story about a haunted mask that consumes your soul but it's also about more than just a mask that consumes your soul.
Anyways as I said before this is quality weird horror fiction. Gavin is subtle but not too subtle. The writing from a literary perspective is on par with any of the other weird greats old and new. This is the first full collection I have read of Gavin's and I am sold. I will definitely be picking up any future releases from him. Another Canadian writing great weird horror.
Definitely something to check out if you're itching for more dark, subtle horror.
Canadian author Richard Gavin's first story collection Charnel Wine came off the press in 2004, and since then Gavin has had a steady stream of collections published. Omens was put out by Mythos Books in 2007, and two years later came The Darkly Splendid Realm. Halloween of 2012 saw the release of his most recent collection, At Fear's Altar, and boy is it a good one.
Gavin writes some of the best weird fiction I've had the pleasure of reading. The influence of all the masters is readily apparent: Lovecraft, Machen, Blackwood, and Ligotti. A keen reader can easily discern that this author lives for the weird, and he writes it oh so beautifully.
In his fourth collection Gavin offers a wonderful variety of tales, showcasing his different influences and making a strong case as to why Gavin's name should be on any shortlist of modern masters of the weird. At Fear's Altar contains thirteen (such an appropriate number) of stories, seven of which are original to this collection. And it must be said, that every single story is great. Gavin's style is sharp, and cuts neat.
Gavin kicks the collection off with a Prologue titled A Gate of Nerves. This short piece is the perfect way to open his collection, and serves to set the mood for what follows. The story follows a college student and her experience with a horrifying Asian parlor game. The imagery is excellent, the suspense builds, and after reading this prologue I knew I was in for something special.
Following the prologue is one of the best stories in the collection. Chapel in The Reeds is a greatly disturbing tale of an old man, his experience with an abandoned church, and his diminishing grip on reality. Gavin writes an extremely convincing example of an old man slipping into dementia, and the story leaves just enough questions open to really keep the reader guessing.
The Abject originally appeared in S.T. Joshi's Lovecraft-inspired collection, Black Wings II. This dark story focuses on a woman in a troubled relationship, as she and her boyfriend join friends on a trip to a cursed place. Adding the deep-seated relationship problems to the primal desolation of the setting makes for quite a chilling experience.
In Faint Baying From Afar, Gavin works in the epistolary format. The story, which is a direct sequel to Lovecraft's The Hound, follows a series of letters from a son to his mother. It's beautifully written, and really captures the feel of classic Lovecraft.
The next story, The Unbound, is also a direct response to a Lovecraft story, this time being The Unnameable. The Unbound acts as a sort of re-telling of the original tale, from the point of view of the Unnameable itself. It's a very interesting tale, and really captures the image of a man shutting himself out from the world, and becoming a Gollum-like grotesque.
A Pallid Devil, Bearing Cypress deals with faith, albeit a dark one. The main character is an outsider, who takes up a strange and dangerous habit of taking jaunts during nighttime air raids on his city. He has a fascination with all things dark which turns into more of an obsession over the Devil in particular. This eerie craving seems to have been inspired by the character's mother, and the story follows the man as he lives out a life of chasing something that most people would run away from.
In King Him, Gavin writes a truly disturbing tale about siblings and "imaginary" beings. The story has some truly disquieting elements (which I won't detail for spoiler purposes) and really toys with the idea of whether or not the characters are truly dealing with a supernatural element or are just very deeply disturbed mentally. In my opinion I think it's a bit of both.
I have always been a fan of weird Westerns, especially ones that tend towards the horror side of the spectrum. The Plains is a tale about a creepy, blasted piece of land (reminiscent of the Blasted Heath from Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space). When some men travel to this place searching for salvation for their drought-plagued town, they are in for a bit of a surprise.
Only Enuma Elish is another story dealing with a shut-in, outsider type character, who makes a connection with his elderly neighbor. What seems like a good thing quickly deteriorates into something surreal when he finds out about her strange beliefs.
In The Word-Made Flesh, a man attempts to help his troubled friend, who believes he has heard the "Word of God". What is truly going on is something much darker.
Annexation is a heartbreaking story that follows a woman on a quest to find her estranged son at the behest of her dying husband. As she tracks him to a remote island in South America, she ruminates on how her son has always been different, and finds out about the dark path he has chosen.
Darksome Leaves echoes Thomas Ligotti, and is about another outsider character who finally meets someone that he feels a connection with. The only problem comes in the form of a transformative mask that mysteriously appears. The man's attitude and ideas reflect Ligotti's typical outsider protagonist, and the masks themselves bring to mind Ligotti's well-known story, The Greater Festival of Masks.
Finally, the collection finishes with one of its strongest tales, The Eldritch Faith. The longest story in the collection manages to hit on so many ideas, and was quite a chilling read. The story follows a young boy who doesn't seem to fit in, and his attempts at contacting a spirit. When he finally manages to make contact with an entity which calls itself Capricorn, his life is forever changed. The buildup is grand, and touches on several aspects of horror that many youths experience, such as sexual angst and facing local urban legends. There is some spectacular imagery in the story, and the ending is brilliant.
With this collection Gavin has managed to bring together thirteen stories without a single bad one amongst them. The stories range from dark to downright terrifying, and every single one will linger in the reader's head for days. I couldn't recommend this collection more, so finish up what you're reading, buy this collection, pour yourself a rye-and-ginger, and settle down to read one of the best books published in 2012 and one of the best weird horror collections published ever. Absolutely essential.