Love and loss are the two prevailing themes in this 93,000-word short story collection, featuring 19 of the author's tales.
Boyczuk builds up his hauntings and often gruesome metaphors and imagery from the base of his stories' human relationships, which imbues his fiction with an uncanniness that mimics the feeling of being trapped in a maze-like dream. Readers need not worry, however.
The horror here is very real - Boyczuk just wants you to have a little fun finding it.
James Grainger, Rue Morgue Magazine
Today we reached the beginning of the end.
That is to say, we encountered a series of flat shelves that descend, like a gargantuan staircase, to the floor of the chasm. We decided to strike a base camp here from which we will explore the steps more fully. After assembling our tents (the blue fabric incongruously bright against the black and dark grey in which everything else down here is expressed), we gathered stones to ring a fire. The overall effect is, surprisingly, cheery. As I write this my back is to the camp and I am sitting on the edge of the first step, my legs dangling two metres above the next. Here and there the debris of buildings can be seen. Not five metres from my perch (and two steps down) is a crumpled hot dog cart, its decaying contents spilled over the hard, unforgiving ground. Scattered throughout the carnage are pink sheets. It was all I could do to keep myself from clambering down a rope to the next level so as to collect more pages. But we are exhausted from the day’s work. And we have already gathered twenty-three pages from the first “step.”
I still have not learned any more about Nell. Though the pages we recovered span a broad range (7, 23, 29, 68, 101, 128, 145, 155, 170, 221, 224, 226, 256, 289, 303, 314, 367, 368, 390, 395, 400, 416, 421), there is nary a mention of her. Could she have only been an ancillary character? A convenient figure who carries out her role and then is casually discarded? Somehow, I cannot bring myself to believe this. . . .
The writing is, as usual, impeccable, the voice authoritative and refreshingly new. Peach is a fine foil for the Colonel, and his antics make for what I assume will evolve into an interesting subplot. The arcane practices of the sisters (introduced on page 68) hint at a sense of foreboding that is skilfully rendered. And when the Harrisons came over and disported themselves on the lawn—well, I laughed aloud! A few of the finer points bothered me, however: when did the Colonel acquire his scar? Have both the sisters seen it?
Yet, as entertaining as these others are, they are still mere shades next to Nell. I cannot get her out of my head. You may think it foolish, but I’ve offered the lion’s share of the rations to whoever finds the next reference to her.
I’d best go now. All the others have turned in and we make an early start of it tomorrow. I can hear the assorted sounds of their sleep—wheezing and snorts and restless shufflings—from directly behind me. The only other sound one hears down here is the occasional stone clattering down the side of the fissure or the wind howling far above, like it is blowing through a troubled place we’ve left behind. Down here, though, nothing stirs. Everything is calm. All the countless distractions of the waking world have disappeared without a trace.