OMENS by Richard Gavin
Here's a brief, belated few words about Canadian writer Richard Gavin's latest collection:
Richard Gavin comes from the school of writers who are influenced by Thomas Ligotti. he writes about the pointlessness of existence, random evil, the darkness that lurks beneath the thin veneer of what we like to call reality.
The stories in OMENS all fit this mould, but unlike some of his contemporaries, Gavin also allows his characters to live and breathe, which ensures that they are much more than ciphers or puppets. For example, I cannot imagine another writer in this sub-genre (if you will) producing a story like "Daniel", where a possibly psychotic father narrates horrors that may or may not be passed onto his son. There's a passion here I find missing from a lot of this kind of fiction, and as a result the tale is one of the best in the book.
Ramsey Campbell is another obvious influence - in fact the book is dedicated to Errol Undercliffe - yet Gavin does not allow his influences to bleed too much into his work. The prose is cultured and polished, the imagery individual and unsettling. In short, here is a writer with that grandest of things, a personal vision.
"The Pale Lover" is another winner. The story of a man in search of a forbidden book, the tale soon moves into less familiar territory and is a tour de force of Gavin's art.
I also loved "The Bellman's Way" and "Down Among the Relics", two stories which seem to me to have strong Lovecraftian elements, but these are blended so effortlessly into the framework of each piece that they take on a life of their own and become so much more than homage.
Not every story worked for me, but that's simply down to personal taste - even what I thought of as the lesser stories are admirable for what Gavin is trying to achieve. There's a cummulative effect to this collection, whereby the book becomes more than the sum of its parts while the stories can still be read in isolation. It's a rare and enviable trick, and one that works well.
In conclusion, Richard Gavin has produced a very fine collection of genuinely unnerving tales, and I eagerly await whatever he comes up with next. Our genre needs more writers like him: serious-minded, willing to experiment, able to conjure exquisite nightmares that stay with the reader long after the book has been put down.