Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Komarovs - Review

He staggered to his feet and patted himself distractedly. "I hardly dared to hope," he whispered. Then he eyed me up and down. "You don't look like a necromancer."
"What d'you want, a pointy hat?" I retorted.

Chico Kidd's story 'Cats and Architecture' graced issue 2 of ST, waaaaaaay back in 2001. The story was the first published here to be anthologised in a 'Best of...' anthology. More importantly, it was also the story that broke a severe writing block for the author.

In that first story the Portuguese sea-captain, Luis da Silva, found himself in Venice and under demonic attack. The result was to make him a ghost-seer and necromancer - one with the power to conjure up those who've died before their time. Three and a half years later Luis takes his family to the fair in Lisbon, hoping to have a nice day out. Needless to say things do not go as planned. The result is a novella that's great fun, full of interesting ideas, and offers da Silva fans another heady dose of supernatural antics.

The Komarovs is, in genre terms, a hybrid of Buffy and Carnivale, or so it struck me. If you haven't seen one or both of those series, don't worry - one great virtue of Chico's writing is that she provides just enough character back-story to make them comprehensible, but doesn't clutter a fast-moving plot with needless exposition. Thus we soon discover that the beautiful but aloof young Siamese twins, the Komarovs, are Up To Something. Enter Harris, da Silva's first mate and a werewolf, who falls foul of a zombie (who smells terrible) and ends up strapped down and under the baleful influence of the wrong kind of incense...

Circuses, especially their odder sideshow attractions, are a familiar ingredient in horror fiction. But here the colourful historic setting and the liveliness of the story make shenanigans in a mirror-maze seem fresh and interesting. There's a clever twist involving said mirror, and the relationship between members of da Silva's crew are nicely dramatised, as is the captain's attitude to his family. There's also a touch of horror-comedy, as a zombie disintegrates in combat but continues to try and get the job done. They had a proper work ethic in those days.

The conjoined twins themselves remain rather enigmatic, but perhaps that's as it should be - this novella is obviously the prelude to something bigger and nastier, as the central premise is that apocalyptic events are coming. Overall, The Komarovs is a well-balanced novella, packing in more material than a short story could hold but still short enough to read in one sitting. The occult universe Chico Kidd has concocted for da Silva and his circle is now very well-developed. And, like all proper world-building, she's continued to add extra ingredients - in this case, a scholarly order called the Alexandrians who seem - on the face of it - to be goodies. Time will tell.

The Komarovs is an eBook from Alchemy Press, and the link above will take you to Amazon where it can be downloaded at a very reasonable price.

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