“(Caitlín R. Kiernan is) the most singular voice to enter the genre since Neil Gaiman popped up in graphic novels and Stephen King made movies live inside books...Beginning with the instant-classic Silk and continuing through her short fiction to this extraordinary new novel, Kiernan hasn’t missed a step yet...If you haven’t sampled her work yet, you haven’t really been reading the future of horror and dark fantasy, only its past.” Lisa DuMond, SF Site, MEviews.com
Silk (2001), Kiernan's first novel, established her as a leading exponent of the generation-X horror story. This ambitious sophomore effort is a bold step backward: a distinctively modern tale that invokes cosmic terrors redolent of past masters H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood. Set in present-day Birmingham, Ala., the novel centers on Chance Matthews, a promising young paleontologist left bereft by the recent deaths of friends and family. Chance and ex-boyfriend Deke Silvey, a loser with latent psychic powers, wallow in self-destructive angst until they're sought out by Dancy Flammarion, a strange teenage girl who claims to be pursued by monsters. Details of Dancy's wild story inexplicably jibe with an anomaly Chance finds in the fossil record, and a pattern gradually emerges that points to an inconceivably ancient entity surviving from Earth's prehistory that is consciously shaping their lives and miseries to suit its inscrutable purposes. Kiernan rises to the challenge of evoking incomprehensible horrors by skillfully deploying symbols that suggest much more than they show. Her oblique and dreamy prose style slows the narrative to a torpid crawl in spots, but ultimately contributes to the thick atmosphere of dread that supports the novel's weird events and sustains its mood of inarticulable terror. A finale that veers unexpectedly from a seemingly inevitable display of supernatural fireworks to a subtly disarming denouement only underscores the intelligence behind this carefully crafted tale of awe-inspired nightmare. (Nov. 6) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Chance Matthews, a graduate student in paleontology, needs time to heal. Her grandfather has died, broken by his wife's suicide. Her friend, Elise, also has died mysteriously. Her alcoholic boyfriend, Deke, has defected to the arms of weird Gothic Sadie. Chance herself is often in an alcoholic haze, trying to forget the awful something that she, Deke, and Elise found in the old waterworks tunnel. Needing only respite from her nightmares, Chance instead receives a visitor, a strange albino waif named Dancy, who knows secret things about Chance and demands her help. Dancy claims an angel has charged her to find and destroy monsters. Chance is a scientist. She denies the existence of Dancy's angels and monsters, but she still finds a fossil of a creature that could not have existed. Suddenly, Chance, Deke, and Sadie also are part of Dancy's horrifying quest. Kiernan's second horror novel starts slowly but builds in page-turning intensity. Seemingly unrelated plot elements mesh with lovely and scientific precision as the author transports the reader to an astonishing conclusion. Her monsters are the stuff of innumerable nightmares—claws click across the floor, shadows flicker just outside the range of vision, and something oozing and terrible lurks in the closet, yearning for souls. Kiernan's style is lyrical and initially seems a trifle precious but ultimately proves right for the Gothic, literary tone of this novel. Horror fans that stick with this tale will be rewarded, but libraries should take note of one caveat—language and sexuality place it firmly for older teens. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined asgrades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Roc, 259p, Hansen
Gothic SF is becoming a mainstay genre, and Kiernan explores its properties in this geology-based thriller about young adult edgy urbanites. Chance, the main character, seems doomed to be surrounded by death. Her parents were killed in a car wreck; her grandfather had a heart attack soon after her grandmother hanged herself; and now her friend/rival Elise dies in an ominous tunnel. What she doesn't need is a homeless teenager who sees horrific monsters. In the midst of this confusion, Chance has been studying fossil trilobites, an interest inherited from her grandmother. When Dancy refers to a scientific name for them, Chance is caught off-guard. Dancy points to a forgotten chest, which contains the grandmother's last experimental data. Chance takes the chest to the lab, where it is tampered with. At that point, Chance just wants to escape all the horror and pain. Dropping out of school, she tries to hide, but the monsters of her past—and Darcy's—are set on destroying them and the evidence. Is there time to solve the horrible mystery before it conquers them all? While this story builds on suspense, the writing is murkier than need be, and the characters almost approach incredibility. But the tone is true to the genre. The trilobite image doesn't work completely, but the general intermingling of the plot twists does make for an arresting read after a while. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Penguin Putnam, Roc, 260p. glossary., Farmer
Still trying to come to grips with the recent deaths of her grandparents and her best friend, paleontologist Chance Matthews encounters Dancy Flammarion, an albino girl who claims to see monsters. As Chance questions the mysteries of her tragic past, she begins to believe Dancy's outlandish stories and realizes that she must face a monster that is all too real and too deadly to defeat alone. The author of Silk creates an eerie and moving tale of ancient terror and modern-day angst that should appeal to mature young adults and adult fans of horror. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.