Monday 25 May 2020

Read 2020 - 56 - Octoberland by Thana Niveau

They live in the places you've just been.

Octoberland is the second collection that I have read by Thana Niveau this year (not ever - I read her mini collection from Black Shuck books a couple of years ago).

Having read From Hell to Eternity earlier this year, I was excited when Dom, my number generator, picked this collection for me to read.* Released by PS Publishing in 2018, it has a superb introduction by Alison Littlewood, and is signed to my Bestwick. We did have words as to why most books he buys are signed to only him, while books I buy are signed to both of us, which also brought up the incident where I was signing at an anthology release and asked him to go along the line to get it signed for me and most signed it to him. A wee domestic.

The stories (excellent, of course). In Going to the Sun Mountain Lis is obsessed with the sharpness of letters, with numbers, and with never being touched, which can cause her to rub her skin raw. This is a journey of two sisters, of how one controls the other, of a fatality that will eventually consume them. It made a sound like a broken song when it hit the rocks.

In the atmospheric The Face, a face in the rocks behind a frozen waterfall in Wales leads to a tense and disturbing revelation. We have torture porn in Guinea Pig Girl where a man is obsessed with a girl in the 'guinea pig' movies and how they become too much even for him.

But I didn't like the way the palm trees tossed their heads as though they were laughing, or the way the darkened openings of temples seemed to watch us like eyes. Oh my, Xibala, has Mayan Gods, a terrifying journey through an unknown wonderland and insect overlords. Tense, tense, tense. I've only just unclenched my limbs.

Emma is left to babysit a six-year-old who can see things that live in the dark spaces in The Things That Aren't There. A short and brutal tale. As an aside, I looked after four-year old twins and their young brother when I was 9 or 10 (the 70s man) and nearly burnt their house down.

The Queen is absolutely horrifying. After the violent death of her partner, Angie becomes one with the bees, transformed by grief. This story sang to and stung my fears, such a hard (but excellent) read. The fantastical Tentacular Spectacular (a title worthy of Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge) sees Cthuluian (forgive me if I have that wrong) monsters, a stage show and corsets. Terrifyingly wonderful.

I'm sure I'm not mentioning every story, but by jove, I seem to be mentioning most. This truly is as spectacular as From Hell to Eternity. 

First and Last and Always is a fresh take on a love spell story. Bad Faith is a collaboration with the late Joel Lane. Told in the form of letters Vile Earth, to Earth Resign is a story of a blossoming romance during a zombie apocalypse. There is a fatalistic vein running through this story, a feeling of the inevitable. I love stories that are told in letter, diary or report form.

Two Five Seven is a haunting story of a little girl's voice trapped in the radio and a deadly family secret. I recall Thana reading this at World Fantasy Con back in 2013. We have another zombie story with Sweeter than to Wake. More visceral this time. Death Walks En Pointe is Niveu's Black Swan.  A tale of murder and maiming backstage at the ballet. Excellent stuff.

Finally we have the title story Octoberland, a poignant tale of siblings, of memories, of a horror that occurred during their childhood. A wonderful ending for a rollercoaster ride that kept climbing up and up with no dips between.

The cover art is by the wonderful Daniele Serra.

Roll on her next collection.

*I am also grateful when Dom picks a hardback book during lockdown as I know I won't have to tote it about in my bag. I'm more of a paperback girl. 

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