Monday, October 20, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes by Mark Samuels

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

I'm honestly not a big Lovecraft fan although I've certainly appreciated the well-written homages and authors who were directly influenced by his writings. Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes is one such collection as Mark Samuels is evidently inspired by the said author yet he writes with such gusto and originality that he makes his own mark in the genre.

Arguably one of Samuels's biggest assets is his ability to create a dreadful atmosphere, sometimes stemming from the most innocuous of circumstances. All that while using easy-to-grasp English that can be detailed when necessary and sparse when appropriate.

The opening story, "Glyphotech", immediately caught my eye. The protagonist is already unconventional as he is an American-turned-Japanese lay man (culturally speaking) working for an American company and this is evidenced by his somewhat stilted language. Yet he is drawn into this strange conspiracy that slowly builds up yet is undeniably very modern while fusing traditional horror tropes. "Glyphotech" sold me and sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Another favorite is "Patient 704" and combines weirdness with the truly horrific. This is compelling psychological horror that doesn't rely on physical or external manifestations but rather dependent on the characterization and the innuendos. It's not a story that impressed me from the outset but it certainly works and is quite enjoyable.

"The Vanishing Point" and "Regina vs. Zoskia" are flat-out weird narratives that take place in the real world and provides interesting yet troubling stories. Again, there is nothing overtly terrifying but reading between the lines, we grasp the true horror of the Lovecraftian mythos: not nihilism or destruction but the impending insanity. Of course rather than present knowledge-than-man-should-never-know, Samuels gives us a reasonable explanation for the spiral towards madness and in the case of the former, the revelation at the end is quite potent.

Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes is a must-have for Samuels fans but those looking for modern Lovecraftian stories would also do well in trying out the author. The collection is compelling horror that excels in establishing a distinct atmosphere and weirdness.

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