Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters

Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters

Book - 2008
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From award-nominated writer John Langan comes a collection of uneasymeetings. A frustrated professor and his graduate student assistant accompany a groupof soldiers to a remote Scottish island to learn what is buried there. A manplays an audiotape left for him by his late father and is initiated into afamily story of monstrous deeds. A student learns frightening lessons in asurreal tutoring center. A young couple struggles to make their stand against agroup of inhuman pursuers in a ravaged landscape. And, in a new story, an artistdiscovers a mysterious statue whose completion becomes his obsession.
Publisher: [S.l.] : Prime Books, c2008
ISBN: 9780809572496
Characteristics: 239 p. ; 23 cm


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Oct 18, 2010

Though competent, this collection overall seems to suffer a lack of broader "vision". The first story, "On Skua Island", is a perfectly pedestrian creature-feature. The second, the title story, is one of the strongest of the bunch, a story in the vein of some of Lovecraft's older works, of dark family secrets and posthumous records. Unfortunately, we then dive into "The Tutorial", a Kafka-esque personal rant at some meanie at a publishing office (seriously; check the author notes) that nobody but Langan himself has any reason to feel interested in. It touches on an interesting core idea, but is ultimately bogged down by its purpose of merely thumbing its nose at someone. I read for horror, not to watch others rip down straw men for their own vindication. Not satisfied at avenging his writing style, in the next story, the author attempts to write a post-apocalyptic story entirely in attempts at tortured run-on sentences. I say "attempts" because they fail to even be that. Just because a sentence concludes in a dash or a misused parenthesis does not mean it has not concluded. Despite this, Langan persists in drawing out every single block of text ad-nauseum for the transparent purpose of proving a point. The bulk of the story's mysteries go not just unsolved but completely untouched. The final story, "Laocöon, or, The Singularity", is a return to much more competent form. It does manage to establish a slightly Campbellian atmosphere of brooding menace and allusion, and focuses with some success on "personal" more than unnatural horror. However, the symbolism and tropes employed are extremely unsubtle, and the whole thing retains the author's seemingly consistent problem of treating his writing as a soapbox (in this case, for his personal woes and for - of all things - his tastes in movies). Though there's definitely a spark of promise, the heady cloud of self-absorption over this collection almost chokes it. Still, the latter and title stories are certainly legitimate efforts.

Sep 08, 2009

Things that go bump in the night are always up my alley so when I saw the review on this collection I was more than intrigued. And I haven't found myself glued to a horror story in such a while that I was completely entranced with Langan's well crafted and satisfying stories. On Skua Island and Mr. Guant is about mummys that have come to life, and Tutorial is at times witty and macabre. The other stories didn't catch me in the same way but this new voice in horror has great promise.


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