From Publishers Weekly
This feeble collection of nine horror stories opens with an untranslated chunk of medieval Italian, fair warning of Marano's fondness for self-conscious hyperallusiveness ("His voice was soothing and unsettling, like HAL's in 2001") that strains to impress rather than express. The two previously unpublished stories, "Displacement" and "Shibboleth," are the worst offenders: lacking discipline, the words run amok, a verbal wall against reader empathy. The others fare somewhat better. "Little Round Head" even makes an emotional connection thanks to its protagonist, a human child raised by animals. Mostly, the narcissistic narrators marinate in adolescent resentment and self-righteousness. Recurrent imagery and themes--eyes like stones, cigarettes, AIDS, monstrous women, abused children who grow up to wreak murderous havoc--dig a rut without ever gaining traction. (Nov.) (c)
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Few horror authors are better equipped to write about madness than Marano. With an expansive vocabulary, a tenacious commitment to poetic prose, and a willingness to follow whatever discursive paths his whim takes, Marano is an acquired taste—but without doubt possessed of a unique talent. He’s at his best when striving for clarity, as in “Displacement,” the novella that anchors this book of short stories. Dean is a serial killer describing the brutal justice he handed out to those whose emotional poisons gave him a deadly cancer. It’s a tale that takes several unexpected and delicious turns, somehow combining a Poe-like belligerence and a Clive Barker–like vividness with pop-culture touchstones as commonplace as Sex and the City and Dr. Phil. The other, mostly first-person stories are hit and miss, but when they hit, they hit big: “Burden,” about the ghosts of an AIDS-ravaged gay community, possesses an unusual power, and “Little Round Head,” about a feral child raised by subterranean beasts, is nothing short of a horror classic. --Daniel Kraus