There are short story collections and then there are short story collections that break out of the confines of the short story to deliver a collection that brave, inventive and full of wondrous stories.
Autumn in the Abyss collects five stories from the mind of John Claude Smith that explore themes such as good and evil, balance in the universe, the extreme ends of humanity, all wrapped up under the gaze of cosmic horror. Autumn in the Abyss will make you think, and might make you look at our place in the grand scheme of things in a different way.
The collection starts in wonderful style with the novelette Autumn in the Abyss. Is there power in words and do words have power, that's what this story asks. So it is kind of fitting that the story in itself is one piece of powerful writing. I love stories that are centred around the mysterious disappearances of writers and as the story unfolds we are blessed with a story that delivers a creepy and awe inspiring peek behind the curtains of our reality.
Broken Teacup takes a nasty little left turn into a rather unsettling story. Smith succeeds in taking the dity subject of snuff films to create a story that while shocking never truly strays over into cheap voyeuristic territory. This is a short punchy story that doesn't waste its time on backstory or characterisation. Not that that is a bad thing, as serves as a counterbalance to the cosmic horror that ensues.I particularly enjoyed how the protagonists both endured a depraved sort of redemption. The story also introduces us to the enigmatic Mr Liu, a sort of cosmic caretaker. I like it when short story collections do things like this, I like when the individual stories get linked together, it gives them an extra sense of place.
Those of us who are creative know all too well how consuming the passion to get things right can be. So when Mr Liu commissions Samual to do a piece of art, you just know this passion is going to take us down a dark road. La Mia Immortalia may not be as full on as the previous story but is is no less satisfactory. It might just be me but this story had a distinct King In Yellow feel to it with a horror in the art vibe. Either way this is an accomplished story
Becoming Human has a burnt out detective alost on skid row after solving the crime of his career. Serial killers area dime a dozen, so it is refreshing to see one that is just so evil on out there it makes al the rest look like naughty school boys. However this is no mere serial killer story, there is also a killer cosmic twist of the knife, that turns an already excellent tale into a blinder of a tale.
Rounding of this excellent collection is Where the Light Won't Find You, there is a reason as to why I don't go to the cinema, and this story of an insect like creature stalking a cinema reminds me perfectly as to why I don't go.
Autumn in the Abyss is an excellent linked series of short stories, the individual stories themselves are wonderful pieces of storytelling. That mix horror, both of the cosmic and the visceral type with a real sense of awe. These are intelligent stories that address some weighty topics such as balance in the world, the constant battle between light and dark, hope and despair. Smith's writing is bold, strong and highly entertaining, he is a writer who is not afraid of his influences, yet at the same time has a strong enough voice and style of his own to make these stories deeply satisfying and original.
When enigmatic poet Henry Coronado disappears six months after the New Year’s Eve, 1959, Welcoming Chaos event, he takes with him a profound secret wrapped within the words of his poem, Autumn In The Abyss. Fifty years later, an ill man’s research into Coronado’s work and life reveals that poetry can indeed change the world, or leave it in ruins.
The Word is a living thing…and often with lethal intentions.
Reality is the strangest mirror...
“The stories in John Claude Smith's new collection take their characters to the limits of human experience, the places where our bodies come asunder in the face of the abyss. Positioning his stories in the seams of our cultural history, Smith chronicles the efforts of artists of all stripes--poets, musicians, sculptors, filmmakers--to break through our common experience to another, more essential one that is painted in blood. It's a quest that draws these artists into proximity with the serial-killer in the book's single and singular tale of a police detective's obsessive manhunt. Whether with pen or carving knife, Smith's characters will not stop until they have gone too far, into a space where revelation and terror are part of the same, vast thing."
--John Langan, author of The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies
PURCHASE A COPY HERE