Snake Eyes by Joseph D’Lacey
Last year I had the good fortune to read The Kill Crew and then Meat by Joseph D’Lacey. Each were superb examples of the horror genre, both are darkly bleak but utterly compelling. D’Lacey’s latest publication is Snake Eyes, a single volume split into two separate novellas. This is a slight departure for the author as the first story moves into the realms of science fiction while the second has a more fantastical tone.
A Man of Will and Experience – Robert Johnson dreams of spiders, thousands of them. When he wakes, the true nightmare begins: a tube has been attached to his head – to everyone’s – but he’s the only one aware of it. His cosy suburban life unravels into paranoid hallucination as Johnson fights to free himself from the control of unseen forces.
I don’t want to delve to deeply into the plot, I believe that part of the enjoyment of this particular story is making discoveries yourself, but what I will say is be prepared to explore a landscape that shifts on more than one occasion. Be ready for an experience that feels akin to reading without the aid of a safety net.
The story veers off in some unexpected, but entirely welcome, directions that will keep any reader on their toes. I’m confident that no one who reads this will figure out the conclusion in advance. You can’t help but be impressed when a writer elegantly re-defines a reader’s expectations multiple times in a single story. Every time I reached a point where I thought I had the plot sussed, D’Lacey throws in another literary curve-ball. I really enjoy writing like this, authors who encourage their reader to engage the old grey matter are a delight to read.
At its heart A Man of Will and Experience is about the pursuit of an ultimate answer. Johnson, the single constant in the entire story, is compelled to keep moving forward. He cannot stop until he finds out why he is in the situation that he is in.
How best to sum up A Man of Will and Experience? Try and imagine the most twisted, mind bending episode of The Twilight Zone you can think of. Got it? Good, now make it far twistier than that.
The weirdest thing, and I admit that this may be pretty specific to me, is that I actually know someone called Robert Johnson. I have a sneaking suspicion that every time I bump in to him in future I’ll be sneakily glancing at the top of his head.
A Trespasser in Long Lofting – An isolated, drought-choked village. A starving community. When something big, red and inhuman crash-lands in a cabbage field, the villagers are divided: is this a scrumptious dragon for the barbecue or a toxic demon to be destroyed? And what if it’s something else entirely?
The second novella fits more into the realms of the supernatural. Things start small and I enjoyed the pace of the set up, from the descriptions of the crumbling village to a couple of farmers bickering out in their field. It brings a nice air of familiarity to proceedings. When the Trespasser arrives all the villagers gather together. Everyone voices their opinions, and you get some subtle hints at a colourful history that exists between the various members of the group.
The Trespasser’s presence begins to cause friction within the village and it’s not long before the situation starts to spiral out of control. Like the characters in a classic fairy tale the villagers of Long Lofting are confronted with a force that challenges their entire belief system. I enjoy any story where normal people are thrown up again extraordinary events.
There are some wonderful darkly comic moments scattered throughout the narrative. The bickering I mentioned earlier, characters using some truly inventive slang (which I fully intend to try and use regularly myself) as well as the revelation of the trespasser’s name being particularly funny.
D’Lacey’s writing continues to go from strength the strength and he deserves as large an audience as is possible. He proves with these two novellas that he is just as comfortable writing science fiction and fantasy as he is with horror.
Snakes Eyes is available from Bad Moon Books on 12th January 2012.