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Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters Hardcover – December 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As Elizabeth Hand aptly observes in her introduction to this exceptional debut horror collection, Langan's tales celebrate supernatural fiction's antiquarian and visionary past with as much eloquence and acuity—and terror—as they explore the dark heart of the 21st century. The richly atmospheric title story evokes the weird fiction of both Henry James and M.R. James in its account of a family cursed with a demonic familiar with a ravenous appetite for disobedient children. On Skua Island, a relentlessly creepy monster story, pits a team of modern espionage operatives against an implacable creature of the living dead out of Norse legend. The five tales run the gamut from supernatural satire (Tutorial) to apocalyptic nightmare (Episode Seven), but whatever their theme or tone, Langan shows uncommon skill at balancing character, plot and mood to achieve the perfect pitch for each. Horror readers will welcome a new voice speaking in a classic tongue. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Prime Books; First Edition edition (December 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809572494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809572496
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Addicted2Amazon! on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I consider myself a connoisseur of horror anthologies. Ok, not a very good one, but I read enough that I know what I like, I know what, in my opinion, constitutes a good story, and I am acquainted with a lot of the established masters of the genre.

Or at least I think I am. And then I discover another new writer that I can't believe I have never heard of.

"Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters" is a collection of 4 exceptional long-ish short stories and 1 excellent novella. I was initially a little skeptical to purchase an anthology of only 5 stories by one author that I hadn't heard of. The story premises and reviews, however, hooked me, and I decided to obtain a copy.

I enjoyed this book! His style is very...literary, I think I can say. His description and sketching of character background is incredible. If writing about less gruesome subject matter, his work would definitely find a wide audience among people who love a strong, descriptive turn of phrase.

But he is talking about gruesome subject matter, thank God! The first story, "On Skua Island" was probably my favorite. In this tale, a professor travels to a remote island off the coast of Scotland to study a relic. Naturally, he soon regrets this decision. I'll admit that the beginning caught me off guard (a group of friends are discussing scary stories in an Oceanside house on a gusty winter night). Though the action was slow at first, I immediately found myself chuckling at the conversation that the friends were having (I thought the interaction the author created was brilliant and dead-on). Then the story began in earnest, and the unfolding atmospheric creepiness was top-notch.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Steven Lehti on June 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Langan's story collection strikes me as the ungainly product of honest literary ambition kneecapped by tired (and unintentionally humorous) horror trappings. His characters and literary style are actually more interesting and imaginative than his supernatural elements. "Mr Gaunt" and "On Skua Island," for all their effective creation of dread atmosphere and tension, conclude with cheesy and ludicrous rampages by homicidal skeletons and bog mummies that produced giggles in this reader. If the setups for both stories hadn't been so strong, I might not have laughed so hard at the climaxes, or felt so disappointed. The novella "Laocoon" is a perceptive portrait of a gifted but failed artist, but is undercut by a predictable ending that reduces this overlong story to little more than a bloated TWILIGHT ZONE episode (and a lesser one at that). I agree with reviewer Randy Cook when he cites the provocatively titled "Episode Seven: Last Stand Against The Pack In The Kingdom Of The Purple Flowers" as the strongest of this uneven lot. It boasts an unusual and imaginative structure and leaves you wanting to find out what happens next, even as you really don't need to (on account of the fullness of the story that Langan presents here).

To conclude, Langan demonstrates a good enough sense for creating reality, mood, and character that I would prefer to see him leave horror and fantasy behind and try his hand at non-genre fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aranion on November 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, a caveat: I am not much of a fan of horror fiction, and I can't claim to be widely read or schooled in this genre. For some time this year, though, I've had a hankering for some solid stories of horror and suspense with a supernatural edge to them. Langan, for the most part, satisfied these literary hunger pangs.

It's important to note that some of the trappings of modern horror are almost entirely absent: there's very little "on-screen" gore in these stories, and Langan does not devote hundreds of words to the blood that is shed in his stories. They also do not feature graphic sex - whether that's a bonus or ding is up to you. I think the stories were much stronger for not being explicitly gory; Langan accomplishes much through suggestion, imagination, and traditional yet effective scare tactics (sounds, shadows, intimations). As far as the absence of sex - the stories don't seem to need it, which tells me Langan knows what he's doing. (Letting the story dictate the tone and contents, rather than shoving elements in simply to include them.)

Of the five stories, three are very strong; one is "OK", and one I found, frankly, boring. When he's on his game, Langan successfully builds then delivers scares, chills and adrenaline-fueled scenes of horror. "On Skua Island" takes a few pages to get going, but once it's into the main tale, I was gripped and couldn't put it down. Borrowing elements from both Lovecraftian and Victorian horror traditions without being cheap pastiche, the story provides a neat twist on a classic monster. Langan explains the very obvious tonal shift in the story in his end notes; while I understand his reasoning, I'm not sure how necessary or succesful it was - but the "real" story doesn't suffer from it.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RIJU GANGULY on June 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Similar to many others, I have also been hugely impressed with this collection, and would like to get hold of the next book by this author. The stories in this collection are:

1) On Skua Island: A Mummy/Zombie/ancient-horror story, that succeeds in getting our attention with its old-world charm and once-fashionable-no-sadly-abandoned format of story-telling around the fire. It is very good, and despite its length, is taut & gripping.

2) Mr. Gaunt: A horror story involving occult, monstrous uncle and his even-more-horrifying companion, and a somewhat-predictable ending.

3) Tutorial: Thinly veiled autobiographical story where an emerging & ambitious author tries to break away from the shackles of form, and faces some truly harrowing opponents who force him into formality.

4) Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers: The best story, which is apocalyptic, super-heroic, and very tightly told with back-and-forth narrative with strong characterization.

5) Laocoon, or The Singularity: A failure because of its length and interminable ponderings through which the protagonist is forced through.

A very good collection. Recommended to all lovers of horror.
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