Sunday, October 7, 2018

Book Review: That Which Grows Wild by Eric J. Guignard

That Which Grows Wild by Eric J. Guignard
Paperback, 296 pages

Published July 17th 2018 by Harper Day Books

I was excited to dive into this book because I have read many books edited by Eric Guignard but this was my first time reading his own fiction at length. This is a thick well put together collection with 16 tales of dark and horror fiction. As a editor EJG has shown a great eye for horror fiction that are strong in theme and meaning.

My favorite thing about this collection was how traditional it was. This is a great example of old school horror fiction. EJG shows that he is a student of the genre, and in several cases he uses tried and true tactics of the genre to create stories that hang around after you close the book. If I am being honest there was nothing that really broke new ground. That is OK, because this is a very comforting exercise in a writer delivering exactly what I expected with great skill.

The opening story "A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It applies to Love" was a interesting opener. At first I thought the idea seemed similar to Joe Hill's novel the Fireman. When I looked at the copyright I realized that this story was published earlier. Both take place during a end of the world where people randomly catch on fire. That is pretty much all they have in common, the thing was I was disappointed in Joe Hill's novel and thought this story did more with the idea in 20 pages. More importantly EJG ties in some important social issues to this story.

This one is a Cli-Fi story and very much addresses global climate change. Since I personally think this is an important subgenre at the moment I loved this aspect. "The temperature rose another degree, bringing the weekly average to one hundred nineteen. Used to be, Late-November was a time to pull out those light sweaters from the back of the closet. Now every breath is a gasp, like choking on a blanket of dust. Your lungs burn, your eyes dry out, your head aches all day, you feel dizzy."

That is powerful stuff and it should freak us all out.

My favorites include Certain "Sights of an Afflicted Woman," "Last Days of the Gunslinger, John Amos" and tops for me was a short one called "Footprints Fading in the Desert."

The gunslinger story was a weird western that had monsters and a flood. The idea was not exactly mind bending but it was just really well composed.

"Sights of an Afflicted Woman" was the best concept in the collection with the creepy idea of a woman who can see germs. This one was executed with such skill that I think most readers will feel their skin crawl as they read this. The plague setting of the story was also very effective world building.

"Footprints Fading in the Desert" is a very straight forward old school horror story. It felt to me like a Twilight Zone episode. It is a simple concept but executed perfectly. This was such a perfect horror story I thought of it like a a long form perfectly drawn out math problem. The story needed perfect atmosphere and timing of it's reveals and it is textbook. this is the time of story that should be taught to young writers.

Lovers of well written short horror fiction cannot go wrong with this collection. I am looking forward to reading more of Guignard's fiction. I would love to read a novel. I think fans of traditional horror should not miss it.

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