Ginger Nuts of Horror
Naming The Bones from Laura Mauro is the latest entry in the Dark Minds Press excellent novella series, following on from such great novellas from the likes of Rich Hawkins, Ben Jones, and Gary Fry. These thematically distinct novellas have continually shown that Dark Minds Press knows exactly what makes for a great novella. When the announced that there latest title was from one of the brightest and most talented of the new generation of Horror Writers Laura Mauro, there was a wave excitement around Ginger Nuts of Horror.
Since first reading her short story While Charlie Sleeps in Black Static, this reviewer knew that a huge talent had just stepped onto the stage, and in the short intervening years Laura has grown and developed as a writer in ways that would make many another author green with envy.
Naming The Bones, is Laura's first published novella, and marks her first move away from the short story format, can Laura pull off a longer format story? You will have to read on to find out...
Allessa Spiteri, is a broken woman, struggling to come to terms with her life and relationships after surviving a bomb explosion on the London Underground, she is seeking answers, answers to why the bomb was set off, and answers to what the nightmarish shadowy creatures that she witnessed in the aftermath of the explosion. Initially she believes them to be mere hallucinations, but as she comes to terms with events she slowly changes her mind and believes the creatures to be real. What are they, what do they want, and can they be destroyed these are the questions that will see Allessa return to tunnels, and on a journey of dark, cold terror.
When you read story from Laura Maura, it doesn't take long to realise that you reading something rather special. Laura's ability to weave multiple thematic, and emotional layers into her work is outstanding. One the one hand you have have a simple tale of a woman battling against the monsters in the dark, but scratch the surface of the narrative ever so slightly and you will find a depth to the story that belies the initial simplicity of the story.
Naming the Bones, is a dark claustrophobic story, that uses its real London locations to great effect. The Elephant and Castle area of London lives and breaths within the lines of the story, adding a sense of reality to the more fantastical elements of the novella. As Alessa pounds the streets of her home looking for answers the reader almost feels as though they are peering over her shoulder, watching as events unfold and her life unravels.
As a simple story Naming The Bones is exceptional, Mauro's story has a fantastic sense of place, with some tightly written set pieces, especially the opening scenes of the explosion, the disastrous first foray into the tunnels and the thrilling final act where everything comes to light and some devastating secrets are revealed. However, interspersing these set pieces is a complex and heart wrenching look at the themes of survivor guilt and the sense of hopelessness when faced with something beyond your control. Laura's intimate look into the mind of Alessa provides the reader with a honest look at how a person deals with these traumas. Rather than making Alessa a victim for the reader to feel sorry for, Mauro has made her all too human, she is an unreliable narrator, the reader is kept guessing as to the truth of the story. She is also a flawed person, her pigheadedness, and unrelenting desire to find out the truth, at times makes you want to take her aside and shake some sense into her, and two seconds later makes you want to take her aside and give her hug and tell her everything will be OK. Alessa is one of the most truthfully depicted characters in recent times, complex, with actions that are completely believe, and an emotional journey that is both honest and totally satisfying.
Laura's depiction of the "Shades" is truly chilling, taking cues from a number of folk legends, these avatars of doom are truly frightening. Wild, ragged creatures, that feed on suffering and despair they will haunt your dreams after reading this book.
Naming The Bones is a powerful, thoughtful, and emotionally satisfying novella, dark, deep and dramatic, it will have you looking over your shoulder and peering into the dark spaces of your world for any hint of the shades.
We are only halfway through the year, but Naming The Bones, looks set to feature very highly in my top 5 reads of the year.
First there was darkness…
Alessa Spiteri survives a bombing incident on the London Underground only to discover that the horror she experienced there is only the beginning of the nightmare.
As she struggles to rebuild her life, she finds herself haunted by grotesque, shadow creatures – monsters Alessa believes are hallucinations, born of her traumatised mind until she meets Casey, also the survivor of an Underground bombing, who tells her she can see the monsters too.
Together, the women plan their fightback against the creatures, a course of action which takes Alessa back into the tunnels beneath the city.
Back into the darkness.