Windeye Paperback – 30 Apr 2012
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"Brian Evenson is one of the treasures of American story writing, a true successor both to the generation of Coover, Barthelme, Hawkes and Co., but also to Edgar Allan Poe." --Jonathan LethemA woman falling out of sync with the world; a king's servant hypnotized by his murderous horse; a transplanted ear with a mind of its own--the characters in these stories live as interlopers in a world shaped by mysterious disappearances and unfathomable discrepancies between the real and imagined. Brian Evenson, master of literary horror, presents his most far-ranging collection to date, exploring how humans can persist in an increasingly unreal world. Haunting, gripping, and psychologically fierce, these tales illuminate a dark and unsettling side of humanity.Praised by Peter Straub for going "furthest out on the sheerest, least sheltered narrative precipice," Brian Evenson is the author of ten books of fiction. He has been a finalist for the Edgar Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the World Fantasy Award, and the winner of the International Horror Guild Award, and the American Library Association's award for Best Horror Novel. "Fugue State" was named one of "Time Out New York"'s Best Books of 2009. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and three O. Henry Prizes, including one for the title story in "Windeye," Evenson lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he directs Brown University's Literary Arts Department.
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These are not ghost or vampire or zombie stories. Nor are they even bump-in-the night stories. These are stories that worm their way into your subconscious and fill you with a sense of dread and disquiet. They contain ideas that take root and become more horrifying the longer you contemplate them. Evenson skillfully makes use of the natural fear that exists in the unknown, both external and internal. What you can't see or understand is much more frightening than what you can.
I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, as might be expected in any short story collection. All were very well written and often produced strong reactions. Think a blend of Edgar Allen Poe and The Twilight Zone. I didn't consume the stories all in one sitting. Each story almost demanded a pause for reflection upon completion. The titular Windeye, as well as the story of a woman falling out of time were among my favorites. People trapped in unfamiliar places or situations, identity confusion, loss of control, and loss of a sense of self are all themes that occur in these stories. They are frightening as well as thought-provoking.
Windeye is a collection for anyone who enjoys horror stories, as well as anyone who appreciates a well-written short story of any genre. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Advance Reader's Copy - Uncorrected Galley
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Publication date: June 2012
Windeye, a new short story collection by noted horror author Brian Evenson, is a thoroughly enjoyable read filled with spine-tingling horror, dark humor, and that just- beneath-the-surface element of doom that every good horror writer tries to capture. Evenson does so and in buckets-full. The terror he invokes, however, is not provoked by a gore-fest or through shock-and-awe. His is a thinking man's fear. By that I mean there are multiple layers of dread in the majority of stories found in this anthology. The deeper you delve into that mine the darker it will become.
You know the writer's saying "show them don't tell them"? Evenson shows his readers enough to scare the hell out of them and then pulls back just enough to allow their own imaginations to finish the job. Spooky, creative, and down-right sinister which is, I expect, exactly what he was aiming for.
The stand-out stories in the collection are: The Process, Legion, The Sladen Suit, The Absent Eye, Grottor, and Anskan House. A brief description of each story follows. (Note: In my opinion, The Absent Eye, Legion, and The Sladen Suit would have made awesome Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes.)
In the title story Windeye, a child is stolen, drawn into an unexplained place in a haunted house, and her entire existence erased. If not for the brother who remembers her she would simply be a forgotten footnote in someone else's reality.
The Second Boy is a supernatural tale about a ghost that refuses to let go of life and the story he tells to be repeated round the campfire.
In The Process, sometimes the only way to break a political tie in a post-apocalyptic world is to remove someone from the opposition.
And, something was made forfeit when humans lost communion with the simple honey bee in the short vignette, A History of the Human Voice. Can it ever be regained?
In Dapplegrim when your inheritance is possessed by a demon the very last thing you want to do is piss it off...
The Angel of Death follows a company of ghosts awaiting one man to record their names in the book of the dead so that they may rest.
In The Dismal Mirror when you make a deal with death you better be prepared to make the final payment.
In Legion a robot finds a stray human arm at work one day (how it got there is interesting) and grafts it to a sensor plate. Only then does it discover true consciousness. How long afterwards do you think it takes to learn the difference between power and weakness, master and slave? Legion is a story with a powerfully shocking surprise ending.
Murder Inc. has nothing on the Organization. The Moldau Case is a procedural with not one but three murders, one after another upon another.
Is The Sladen Suit an entry point to an alternative universe? During a long storm at sea starving sailors discover another world in a Sladen suit. But what lies on the other side?
Hurlock's Law - Is Hurlock from an alternative universe? Or, has he just disappeared into one? And why won't the construct respond?
Falling out of time (everything skews out of synch and there's a Discrepancy in time) can have disastrous side effects.
Forensic evidence uncovers the Knowledge that two corpses killed each other. How is it they were found miles apart? Evenson's clear argument as to why he hasn't written a detective novel yet.
Baby or Doll - Would you question your sanity if you were stuck between alternate worlds?
Is The Tunnel a metaphor for the journey into the afterlife? Or is it a supernatural story of fear and trepidation? The Tunnel is a spooky and disconcerting tale.
South of the Beast gives new meaning to the term suffering poet. More prose than narrative South of the Beast has the flavor of contemporary poetry while telling a tale of loneliness and agony. Of all the characters in Windeye the tormented poet here may be the one that suffers the most.
The Absent Eye is a metaphysical look (pardon the pun) at a physical presence. What if our spirits, our very souls were slightly malignant and sentient in their own right? What if your soul questioned where it went after death and then tried to find out?
There is no more humorous story here than Bon Scott: The Choir Years. An enterprising rock journalist discovers secret information outing the late lead singer of AC/DC as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But did Bon Scott sing in the Mormon Choir and was his death really a horrible accident? Evenson has an interesting take on a very weird conspiracy theory. The really eerie thing about this story is that it rings true.
In Tapadera a murdered boy just won't stop knocking to be let into the house he was thrown out of. Some unusual methods are employed by the killers to keep him out. But getting rid of a living-dead body is not an easy task.
A soldier's ear, lost in a horrific battle, is replaced with The Other Ear of a dead man. Where is that voice coming from? And, why has it lead him to the graveyard?
In They a man commissioned to discover who is murdering his client, over and over again, faces an eyeless, faceless opponent.
Unable to comprehend the reality of his hallucinatory world a man sets out looking for answers. What do you do when The Oxygen Protocol is initiated and oxygen and water start to run out? If you're playing it smart you let the machines put you on life support until the situation improves. What if you couldn't let them do it to you? Would you sacrifice the resources of the group for yourself or would you comply?
The Drownable Species - In true tradition of Edgar Allen Poe one man's hallucinatory search for a missing brother, and the uncommon death's of his parents, uncovers a sinister evil lurking from within. What if your perceived family were really your victims?
Grottor, Lovecraftian in design, gives whole new meaning to the phrase "a wolf in grandmother's clothing."
At Anskan House be very, very careful what you wish for.
4 out of 5 stars
Rated S for suggestive evil and inevitable chills.
Windeye's characters are set apart from the beginning. Whether it's a dark tunnel that keeps them away from humanity, or a ship cast off in a storm, or a machine built to clean and repair trains that learned something new, or even just an unhappy woman who starts to feel somewhat out of sync, these people (animals? robots? ghosts?) find something that most of us cannot, tightly packed with humans all around us. The question is whether that something is worth finding. Each character is alone in their own skin, and in some ways, that's the worst horror of all- this whole book taps into our (or, at least, my) primal fear that we will never really be understood. You are born alone, Windeye seems to whisper, and you'll sure as hell die alone, and the rest is a farce, at best.
The only problem I had with this book was that this sense of never knowing what's real or not combined with a series of short stories is robustly problematic for me when I really want to know more about what's going on. Multiple stories could easily be expanded into a full book or even a series, and I'd eat them all up. Hear that, Evenson? I WANT TO THROW MONEY AT YOU.
In the Windeye collection Brian Evenson has crafted a set of short stories that range from deeply unsettling to horrifying. He presents worlds in which reality can shift to something quite different in the blink of an eye. He challenges the concept that we are in control of what we think and how we act. In one story an ear takes control of a soldier, in another a transplanted arm begins to think. He also writes about realities governed by written words - tatters of paper are thought to guide a man's life, a listing of names defines who is dead and who is alive in a group.
I found the book to be spooky and haunting. The writing is skillful with many of the stories open-ended, allowing the reader to complete the final scene.