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Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters Hardcover – December 29, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
"Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best horror/weird story collections I've ever read. Outstanding! Highly, highly recommended.Published 21 days ago by Bronte fan
This author is truly great at his craft. John Langan has created a literary collection that is so bone-chilling it will satisfy even the biggest horror afficionado. Read morePublished on November 8, 2013 by Lillie Thundercloud
You want to buy a good book. That's why you read these reviews. So, you lucked out. This is one of our best short story writers. Buy this book. End of review.Published on February 1, 2013 by Richard W. Keeney
Not the best. He likes to copy other writers' style alot, but should concentrate on developing his own. Also, showing more doesn't necessarily make things scarier.Published on July 27, 2010 by Cheryl
I'm not a huge fan of horror fiction-- I reviewed this collection for a librarians' database-- but I loved "On Skua Island. Read morePublished on February 19, 2010 by bumuling
Langan is a superlative stylist, yet this initial collection shows more of a promising future than a presently engaging body of work. Read more