I’m treading on thin ice with this – since I know virtually nothing about horror literature, or new weird (I don’t even know anything about the old weird 😛 ) – so I’ll try to be brief.
Publishers Weekly got it perfectly right when they said this is “a wonder-filled journey that echoes Dante’s Divine Comedy, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the landscapes of Hieronymus Bosch“. The book is structured in 3 chapters, each with one character at the center holding a piece of the puzzle – but all intertwined . We start off with Nick, a living art artist – destitute and on the brink of despair after being beaten and robbed (no connection, but this particular circumstance reminded me of As good as it gets). He visits his twin, Nicola and her ex, Shadrach – searching for help, for a way out and ends up in the employ of the mysterious Quin. Nicola’s chapter is a second person narration (my very first legitimate 2nd person fiction – I always wondered how it would sound and now I can say it’s slightly weird and bothersome at first but, as soon as I fell into the rhythm, I wasn’t aware of it anymore) and features her search for her how missing brother and her meeting with Salvador, one of Quin’s meerkats. Chapter 3 is Shadrach descent in the underground, looking for Nicola – and that’s where the myths and their reinterpretation come into play.
The underground is populated by nightmarish creatures, mutated beyond recognition – echoing The Island of Dr Moreau, but going much further, amplifying the state of uncertainty, of horror and disgust. When I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted I thought it would be the most horrific and violent thing I’d ever come across, but some passages in Shadrach’s journey (such as the scenes in the organ donor bank) really put Mr. Palahniuk to shame. Despite all this, there are a couple of surprisingly beautiful (the level 13 map) and interesting (Gollux) encounters on the way to Mordor Quin’s underwater dwelling, which comes equipped with an eye much like Sauron’s. The Gollux, self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-aware (Gollux is Gollux. Nothing more. Nothing less.) and coldly stating the obvious ended up being my favorite character, I think.
Veniss is a world in which humanity is in decline and Quin, its newly risen god, predicts a takeover by his genetically engineered creations (not limited to meerkats) who are currently serving humans. In the final confrontation Shadrach, forced to choose between himself and humanity, ends up doing the human thing, so the ultimate fate of this world is pretty much anybody’s guess.
My volume (I read a translation – a fairly good one, even if I still sometimes could feel the English lurking underneath) also contained a bunch of short stories from the same universe. Haven’t read those yet, but planning to – someday.
In totally unrelated news – I think I should get a no social life tag: I’ve spent most of the afternoon getting a shelfari account and filling it up with all my books (not all the books I’ve ever read 😛 ). It took me the better part of 3 crappy movies (in the ascending order of crappiness, they are I love you, Philip Morris, Date Night** and Hot tub time machine) and you can see if for yourselves here. If you care. Though you probably don’t. I’m rambling 😀
**I somehow can’t help imagining this as an early 90s Steve Martin flick. It would have been a better fit.