Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Ice Age

Ice Age

I've just reviewed Iain Rowan's new Kindle eBook on Amazon, and thought I'd share it here. Iain's story 'The Walker on the Wall' appeared in ST7 and a new story of his will feature in ST21. In the meantime, you could try this excellent collection and give a boost to an author who deserves to be better known. Here's the review:

Iain Rowan is a rising star of what's loosely termed the horror genre, though perhaps 'chiller' would be a more apt term for the stories in this remarkable collection. The collection is arguably linked by a common theme of loss and isolation - Rowan's protagonists are usually lost in some way; to society, to loved ones, to hope, to themselves. 
Thus in the first story, 'Lilies', the protagonists is a solder in a nameless city riven by what may be civil war. It rapidly emerges that the conflict is at least in part about conflicting attitudes to the dead, who in this world can come back to us - but only for a while. A similar war-torn cityscape, suggestive of the break up of Yugoslavia, features in 'Here Comes the New Way', with its bizarre religious cult, and 'Sighted', a tale of a sniper among ghosts. Altogether closer to home (which for Rowan is northern England) 'The Call' focuses tightly on a man wounded by bereavement who moves to the coast to try and forget his wife and child. On a headland path he meets an odd-job man who talks of the call of the sea. Descriptive passages of the fog-bound shore are as good as anything in the traditional English ghost story, but the conclusion is altogether more modern and ambiguous. 
Different again is 'Through the Window', a simple cautionary tale of a man who wonders about a woman who seems to be trapped in a derelict house. 'Driving in circles' has a nice, Twilight Zone feel, with a bickering couple realising that they have driven too far off the beaten track. A darker mood pervades 'The Circular Path', in which a man decides to investigate a childhood trauma and solves a mystery - unfortunately. 
But it's the title story - the last in the book - which stands out as a superbly-crafted tale on the borderlands of social realism. A man's conviction that a new ice age is coming is a powerful metaphor for the bleakness of a disintegrating life. The character's name is Coppard, a reference to one of the unjustly neglected masters of the English short story. I hope Iain Rowan gets the recognition that is his due. 

2 comments:

James Everington said...

It's a great collection isn't it? I was lucky enough to have Iain guest on my blog, and so I checked out Lilies when he did so, and I thought it was one of the best 'horror' stories by someone new I'd read for ages. Most of Ice Age is equally good - nice to know you have a new Rowan story coming soon.

Iain said...

Thanks both - that's a very generous review, David and a perceptive one too about the theme that runs through a lot of the stories.

If you've not read any of James' stories, I'd recommend them very highly as great examples of literate, unsettling world-out-of-kilter horror. (And James, sure I've said but you really should submit something to ST...)