- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Tor.com (February 28, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765394324
- ISBN-13: 978-0765394323
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 85 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Agents of Dreamland Paperback – February 28, 2017
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“Kiernan’s writing ― starkly visual, tongue in cheek and disturbingly visceral ― carries the day.” ―The New York Times
“Kiernan's subtly haunting voice draws the reader in.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Caitlín R Kiernan is one of those writers that you can’t believe isn’t a household name. Her writing is fantastic and her stories are dark, complex and wonderful.” ― Book Riot
“Caitlín Kiernan is one of the great stylists of horror fiction, and this novella is a triumph. It bristles with energy and ideas ― ideas that seem to spill off the page ― and everything is underpinned by a sense of cosmic bleakness that took my breath away. I fell in love with the characters. The story pulled me along by the nose. I honestly didn't want it to end.” ―Gary McMahon, author of the Concrete Grove trilogy
About the Author
CAITLIN R KIERNAN is the author of science fiction and dark fantasy works, including multiple novels (The Drowning Girl, The Red Tree, and Agents of Dreamland); many comic books; and more than two hundred published short stories, novellas, and vignettes. She is also the author of scientific papers in the field of paleontology. She has won numerous awards, including two World Fantasy Awards, two Bram Stoker Awards, and a James Tiptree Jr. Award.
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The story kept me immersed throughout. I have been reading and enjoying Ms. Kiernan's short stories and books for several years - some more than other, I confess - but this work has transcended her usual style and voice and is in a new level of its own. Of all I have read from her, this book is my new favorite; It is easily the best cosmic horror story that I have read in the last few years.
in fact, this novella would probably have been less effective if it were any longer. the brevity of this book is part of its gut-punch appeal. a longer novel, with a more fully fleshed-out backstory about the secret agent known as the Signalman and his the mysterious agency that supports him, might have shattered the suspension of disbelief. Lovecraft mostly worked in story or novella-length fiction for a reason, and Kiernan seems to do the same. shorter fiction in this vein allows for, or perhaps even requires, an allusive writing style that's difficult to maintain in a novel. after sticking through a novel for 400 pages you want to see the monster behind the curtain, so to speak. in a shorter work, the author can more effectively maintain the sense of anticipation without fully pulling back the curtain.
A U.S. government operative meets with a woman in a diner somewhere in the southeast of California. They're there to exchange information regarding some horrific event that occurred a couple of days earlier. From there, we get a story about the usual Cthulhu-esque suspects. Mad cults? Check. Creepy Tomes? Double Check. Creepy, disgusting body horror? Holy Crap, yes!
The story, once you get past certain issues, held my attention well enough. I don't want to say too much beyond the presence of the usual Lovecraftian motifs as it might spoil an already short story. One positive is that the plot moves forward (or backward, if you know what I mean) quickly enough. You don't have a lot of deep characterization or introspection, which is, in my opinion, a good thing.
That said, I'm hesitant to call this Lovecraftian fiction. Sure the usual motifs are present, but that sense of cosmic horror and insignificance that the master did so well is conspicuously absent.
The two (maybe three) main characters aren't too bad. There's the FBI agent, the weird creepy girl with time-gazing(?)/time-travelling powers, and the victim of a creepy cult leader. There's really nothing special and nothing too deep about any of these characters, which, as I said above, is honestly a good thing. It keeps the plot from slowing down.
However, there is one major issue that nearly soured my enjoyment. First, the author is a fairly good wordsmith. She can put phrases together that crackle and spark with wit and meaning. However, she does this at the expense of clarity. Far too often I found myself rereading a paragraph because I had no idea what the author just said so poetically. I really hate this sort of writing in novels, writing that sacrifices precious clarity in order to show you just how well the author can string words together. Far too many modern horror writers do this, and it can really ruin a story. I don't want to see how well you can write, I just want a good story.
Finally, I have a small nitpick about the ending. I really dislike when I pick up what looks like a standalone novel, only to be shown otherwise. I understand leaving certain minor things open for exploration in a future standalone novel. That's not the case here, the main story feels unresolved, and, given my expectation of a standalone novel, I was disappointed.
I really did enjoy this novella. It's fun, if shallow, Mythos-esque fiction. However, I feel as my enjoyment came about in spite of Kiernan's writing, not because of it. Had the writing been a bit more clear, I would have enjoyed the novel far more than I did. Authors, please stop sacrificing clarity for "witty" wordsmithing.
3.5 out of 5 stars