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on Sep. 04, 2013 :
Quite excellent collection. All the stories gave me a shiver and are likely to stay with me for quite some time. I agree with the reviewer below, I was also strongly reminded of Thomas Ligotti (which is rather high praise). Clean and beautifully written with not a word more than necessary.
Highly recommended for anyone.
(review of free book)
on June 26, 2013 :
This was a very good collection of weird fiction tales. The style, themes, and sense of subdued horror remind me a little of Thomas Ligotti. Though all were well-written stories, I was particularly impressed by "Lamia Dance."
(review of free book)
on March 17, 2013 :
In A Season of Dead Weather consists of seven stories, all of which might loosely be termed supernatural or weird fiction. They all skirt the ill-defined boundaries of horror, fantasy, and the thriller. They are all of a very high literary standard, too. It seems that there is a new 'Canadian wave' in the field of quiet horror, and that's a good thing.
The first story, 'Lamia Dance', offers a fairly conventional beginning - a lonely medical student escapes the pressures of intense study by going to a cinema. The short feature, however, is a bizarre and disturbingly erotic fantasy that affects the protagonist so severely that he leaves before the main feature. I can't really describe the strange power of this story, but that's true of all of them, really. Suffice to say that the concept of the lamia is used to very good effect.
'Never Noticed, Never There', has a slight hint of Richard Matheson and The Twilight Zone, with its account of an ordinary suburban male who leaves home 'on a wet Sunday afternoon in April', and vanishes without trace. In a more conventional tale this might lead to an account of abduction by aliens or vampires, but here things are much odder. The man's wife becomes convinced he is still alive, somewhere in the fabric of the house. Later, a different person finds evidence that the missing man has somehow been absorbed into a strange ur-world that exists alongside everyday reality.
'Shadows in the Sunrise' sees someone setting out to walk across country on a late autumn day. We learn, through incidental detail, that this is the near-ish future, a world struck by the Great Deflation, a world of power cuts and self-canned goods. Stranger shadows gather. A strange light dazzles. Winter comes. Has the outer world been destroyed? Has some alien force taken over? Or is the mysterious lattice work in the sky a symptom of madness brought on by chronic isolation? Perhaps one person, too much alone, makes their world afresh.
'When the Echo Hates the Voice' is different again, offering something a bit more like a conventional horror story. First we hear from an obstetrician who, when he delivers his first baby, hallucinates a bizarre entity. Then comes the account of the baby growing to be a smart, popular boy, albeit one with a penchant for drawing strange, disturbing faces. He is convinced that something is seeking to destroy or possess him. Here the author places his thumb on the balance to make clear that there is more than madness at work.
Another rural tale, 'What Would Remain?', is enlivened by Dillon's gift for descriptive writing. Too often writers let down a good idea with poorly-realised settings and a too-vague account of who goes where and how they do it. This story of a woman searching for her mother in foul weather harks back to Blackwood's pantheist/animist notions, but is much bleaker. The idea is that the earth might be cleared of human beings, but perhaps some will be left.
'The Weight of Its Awareness' is - here it comes - a slightly Aickmanesque story of a middle-aged man trying to visit a walled off residential area that aroused his interest when he was young. He finds that a fondly-recalled park is now cluttered with weird sculptures. And what lurks behind the blank windows of the strange, quiet houses? Something that knows you, and knows what you fear.
'The Vast Impatience of the Night' is almost cosy in its evocation of a group of young widows in rural Canada (a landscape Dillon clearly knows and finds inspiring, much as Lovecraft was inspired by rural Vermont). But what makes so many women widows? There is, again, a whiff of science fiction here, but it is reminiscent of the deliberately transgressive 'New Wave' writing of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
I enjoyed this collection, not least because I felt I was sharing the imaginative world of someone who doesn't seek easy answers or rely on obvious gimmicks. I hope you'll give Mark Fuller Dillon's stories a chance. Like many good short story writers, he is unlikely to ever receive the considerable backing of a major publisher, despite being vastly more gifted than the average bestselling hack.
(review of free book)
on March 13, 2013 :
Grab a comfy chair by the fire, a hot drink, and a book of good horror stories. Those rattling shutters outside? Just the blowing snow. Those shadows dancing in the corner? Fire light, nothing more. And the whispers behind your chair are your imagination.
That’s the feeling Mark Fuller Dillon conveys throughout his short story collection In a Season of Dead Weather. In most of the stories, it was never quite clear whether the “horror” was in the narrator’s mind or if it was real. The reader was left to interpret at the end.
And that worked for me. Each Lovecraftian tale was expertly crafted, with poetic and visceral language describing characters enduring the loneliness and isolation of a long winter in the country or the city. Dillon is a Quebec native, so he’s no stranger to maddeningly endless winters (I’m a west Michigan native, so I can sympathize).
Most of the stories were quite literary and a little confusing to me, a genre reader. But their narrative styles, descriptions, and situations were so unique that I found myself eager to read on just to hear the language rather than find out what happens to the characters.
In the first story, “Lamia Dance,” a medical student takes a break from his studies – and braves the snow – to attend a film festival where see a film that brings back haunting memories from his childhood. The film’s images of violence and anatomy seemed quite erotic to the narrator. “Lamia Dance” was either a story about being pushed into a profession that the narrator did not choose for himself...or about a budding serial killer.
In “Never Noticed, Never There,” Tom Lighden sees ghastly apparitions in terrible pain on the streets of Ottawa. He is the only one who sees them, as every one else simply walks past them without a second glance. Dillon implies that society has become good at ignoring the pain of others, as we are too busy with our own lives to notice.
If you’ve ever been stuck alone in the woods during winter, you’ll understand the characters’ bleak situations in “Shadows in the Sunrise,” “The Vast Importance of the Night,” and “Who Would Remain?” Blizzards keep the narrators from civilization, they loose time, and sees clawing shadows. Is it madness, ghosts, alien abductions? The reader is left to wonder if it’s all real or if winter has claimed the characters' sanity. While the three stories had similar themes, their unique characters and situations sufficiently differentiated them.
“The Weight of Its Awareness” had a middle-aged man revisiting a seemingly deserted, walled-off home that he originally tried to explore when he was eighteen. Grotesque sculptures now decorate the gardens, and a dark presence spies him from the home’s blackened windows and infects his mind. The story seemed like an extreme version of “curiosity killed the cat.” It was the weakest of the seven stories for me; although “weak” is a relative term since even this story kept me enthralled.
The strongest story for me was “When the Echo Hates the Voice.” Paul Bertrand is a brilliant, handsome young man who’s always the life of any social gathering and constantly seeks any excuse to be around people. The reason is that he cannot stand to be alone, for that is when the voices and faces visit him. Told by a narrator observing Paul, the story suggests a struggle between two personalities: one that seeks companionship and social reward, and one that seeks to keep us isolated from each other.
As I said at the beginning, I’m a genre reader and rarely read stories just for their styles and language. Dillon’s In a Season of Dead Weather is one of those rare works that can make even a genre reader like me want to take a second look at the literary. Highly recommended.
(review of free book)