by Conrad Williams
an excellent novel regarding the fall of london and the ancient, maggotty, yet strangely sexy beings coming back to roost and to slaughter. Dirty Sexy Evil? well there isn't actually much that is sexy, unless perfect complexions and secret groin spikes are something that rock your boat.
the above description does an incredible disservice to the novel itself. reading the excitable descriptions on the back cover and within are also misleading: the prose is described as "muscular" and the novel itself is described by many (including the author) as a throwback to the horror novels of the 80s. i saw neither, and honestly i'm not even sure what "muscular" prose even looks like. hemingway? henry miller? anyway, the prose itself is dense and often surreal - strong in description, artful in delineating character, unafraid of describing a host of horrific and hallucinogenic tableau and mindstates. the plot is in some ways simple when looking at it after the finish: terrible things plan on re-invading london 600 years after their first visit, their compadres include two very different serials killers, and the folks arranged against them include an increasingly deranged photographer and the hysterical mother of an alien-impregnated young lady. well i suppose that sounds sorta 80s.
but it also does no justice to the robust storytelling, the often dreamlike narrative (an overused phrase, but spot-on in this case), the sense of our own reality slowly blending with a new and far more savage one, the many scenes of geniune terror and all-around horribleness, the poignant weaknesses of the protagonists, the ability of the author to create terrible landscapes of sadness, loneliness, and destruction, and the sheer ambitiousness of the novel overall. this is in many ways a poetic novel (another overused phrase), an exceedingly rich and dark one, and is up there with some of the best modern horror i've ever read. perhaps the only weaknesses, the only things keeping me from giving it the highest rating, are that the horrors do not have a necessarily timeless or resonant quality, and perhaps too much time is spent with the dream-addled photographer when the upsetting realism of the hysterical mother's journey was far more palpable.
personally, i've always found adults with unblemished skin to be on the creepy side. how much money and time and effort have they spent on gaining that varnished look? it makes perfect sense to me that the unblemished who walk among us are simply the horrific vanguard of a hostile alien species. perhaps we should kill 'em all, just to make sure.