Ginger Nuts of Horror
In a normal, suburban setting, the residents are in the midst of pleasant slumbers following a mid-summer barbeque at Jon' place. Suddenly our hero wakes in the midst of a very strange lightning storm to find his wife missing. As he stumbles around the house and then the immediate neighbourhood looking for her, he comes to realise something is very, very wrong in their close-knit community...
Released as one of DarkFuse publishing's limited edition, signed novellas (also available in ebook), this was my first taste of Tim's work. I found his style to be reminiscent of Stephen King, without being derivative. He has the ability to make his scenes immediately familiar in a comfortable, seductive voice, although this could also have been due to the suburban setting (I'll have to read more of his work to find out - any excuse, eh?).
Being a novella, it doesn't take long before weird shit starts to happen, although Curran pulls off the trick of introducing decent characters and a slow-ish build-up given the size limitations of the format. We're as much in the dark as the players, as Jon finds some of his neighbours, none of whom have a clue what's going on. At first there's a party atmosphere as most slip into easy denial, but when the strange cables (tentacles?) are lowered from the sky and they witness people being taken up into the dark, panic breaks loose.
Yes, we are in the realms of a kind of 'Cosmic Horror', although it's never clearly defined exactly what the barely seen 'entities' are, or why they're doing what they're doing. There's much supposition in the mind of Jon (the novella is a first person narrative), but I won't repeat any of it here for fear of colouring the mind of the future reader. Most of the action takes place in the dark (metaphorically and literally) and the brief glimpses we have of the...'harvesters' only make us wonder more. It's a good strategy though, because I always feel these things work best with as little explanation as possible.
(As an aside, I find much horror is reduced when there is an explanation, whether the characters know or it's just us, the watchers/readers. It's something I need to muse on more, but I suspect this is why some who watch horror films have this superior 'why are they doing that!?' attitude - we know it's a horror film, but the players don't. Are you trying to say you wouldn't go and investigate a strange sound in your house?)
Anyway, I digress. Tim's novella moves along at a cracking pace. There's occasional violence (used to great effect - Curran knows that true horror is not safe or comforting; no one is exempt and this leads to a couple of truly emotionally horrific scenes...), there's naturalistic (for the most part) in-fighting and psychological break-downs, there's even time for a bit of social commentary.
If I have any criticisms, there are a couple of instances that feel contrived, a little forced. I won't detail them because I don't like to spoil, but I feel that one or two events were just a little too pat and could have done with a touch more explanation or slightly different circumstances. But as this happens towards the end, you're already invested in the story and it flashes by quick enough to make these concerns not a real issue. I especially loved the very ending which was not at all what I was expecting (and was also superficially similar to the ending of a short story I've written, so I had to like it :-P).
All in all, a solid little story and definitely makes me want to read more of Curran's work.