Cover by Matthew Jaffe
Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies
By John Langan
Word Horde (390 pages, $19.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats, August 18, 2020)
Cover by Matthew Jaffe
Word Horde, Ross E. Lockhart’s small press, has produced some of the most interesting horror books of the past few years.
This is the fourth short story collection by horror writer John Langan (following Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, and Sefira and Other Betrayals). He’s also authored two successful novels, House of Windows and The Fisherman.
If you’re already familiar with Langan’s work, you know what to expect from his latest: a medley of themes, locations, narrative styles, atmospheres, sometimes overwhelming and totally compelling, sometimes downright weird and not always quite satisfactory. Whatever he writes, however, Langan is never banal. You may love the story he’s telling or you may hate it, but it will never leave you indifferent.
Thus, predictably, some of the featured tales left me spellbound and others just ill-humored. I will point the stories in the former group, and leave the latter to your judgement.
These are, to me the highlights of the collection.
In the cruel, disquieting and puzzling “Underground Economy” a lap dancer’s life is changed forever by unexpected, unfathomable events, while in the terrific and terrifying “Hyphae” a man returns home to find his father transformed into a living horror.
The title story, “Children of the Fang,” is actually a complex, fascinating novella in which the discovery of old family secrets reveals the existence of ancient, alien beings with whom an eccentric grandfather was involved.
“What Do You Do” is a story with a dream-like texture in which a writer is troubled by a mysterious man who follows him from place to place during his readings.
Yet another writer, with a life full of hidden secrets, is the main character in “Into the Darkness, Fearlessly,” a tense, enticing novelette depicting events following his death.
The story notes at the end of the volume are a pleasant, enjoyable addition in which Langan discusses the authors who influenced him while writing the various stories.
Mario Guslandi was born in Milan, Italy, where he currently lives. He became addicted to horror and supernatural fiction (too) many years ago, after accidentally reading a reprint anthology of stories by MR James, JS Le Fanu, Arthur Machen etc. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, he has contributed over the years to various genre websites such as Horrorworld, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, The Agony Column and many more. His last review for us was of The Scarecrow and Other Stories, by G Ranger Wormser.