New Treasures: Leech by Hiron Ennes
Leech (Tor.com, September 27, 2022)
I’m a fan of sci-fi horror, but to be honest I find much of it rather unimaginative. So I was very intrigued by Leech, the debut novel by Hiron Ennes, which is set in a crumbling chateau in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic America, and narrated by a parasitic monster masquerading as a human doctor who uncovers a competing parasitic horror spreading through his host’s castle. Part of my interest, I admit, arises from the flood of positive press:
“A sublime gothic sci-fi tale.” ― Library Journal, starred review
“Full of squirming terror.” ― Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Pure Gothic horror.” ― The Wall Street Journal
“A strange and fascinating far-future world is gradually revealed in this accomplished combination of gothic horror and sci-fi.” ― The Guardian
“Grotesque biology like I’ve never seen. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if David Cronenberg and Edgar Allen Poe bumped into each other at the same parasitological conference, here’s your answer.” ― Peter Watts
When Peter Watts praises your inventive biology, you know you’re onto something. I was less than halfway through the summary on the inside flap when I knew I was gonna buy this one.
For those with better impulse control than I, here’s an excerpt from Seamus Sullivan’s rave review at Strange Horizon.
Leech, the stunning debut novel by Hiron Ennes, seems to inhabit half a dozen genres at once, much the way its 500-year-old narrator inhabits human bodies. It’s gothic fiction, body horror, and postapocalyptic SF. It’s a frostbitten nightmare about the dissolution of the self, à la John Carpenter’s The Thing…
Our principal character, the Interprovincial Medical Institute, is a parasitic hivemind masquerading as a collective of human doctors… Over centuries, the Institute has cultivated medical knowledge, collected host bodies, and established a monopoly on healthcare, ministering to the remnants of humanity on a disaster-ridden Earth of the future. The oceans are acid. The moon has shattered. Feral machines prowl rivers of mud…
The Institute, which consists in meatspace of a series of flesh-and-blood avatars, is sending a new body to the mining town of Verdira, there to serve as doctor to its ailing baron, his family, and the villagers. This new body has a second, secret mission: investigate what happened to the last doctor. The Institute remembers its old body’s years of residence in the baron’s château, but it has no memory of that body’s final days, or the cause of death. A quick autopsy of the old doctor reveals a self-inflicted neck wound and, nestled behind the corpse’s left eye, a twitching mass of tendrils resembling a clot of black hairs: a rival parasite, poised to infect.
The Institute’s efforts to investigate and stop the spread of this rival (soon dubbed Pseudomycota) also introduce us to Verdira’s crumbling château, the beleaguered mining community outside it, and the splendidly Gothic inhabitants of both.
Leech was published by Tor.com on September 27, 2022. It is 323 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover, and $14.99 in digital formats.
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