Three reviews that originally appeared in Black Static #43:-
The last time I reviewed his work I drew comparisons between Tim Curran’s approach to horror fiction and that of the late Richard Laymon, and there are certainly echoes of the latter’s Flesh in Curran’s novella WORM (DarkFuse eBook, 113pp, $2.99), albeit rapidly escalating to something along the lines of the film Tremors transplanted to an urban setting.
Assorted civilians are attacked and killed by vicious worms with a taste for human flesh that crawl out of the ground, while others fight back and manage to survive. All of which leads into an encounter with the monstrous Mother of Worms, one where it seems doubtful anyone will come out the other side, at least anyone human. (Brian Keene’s The Conqueror Worms is another possible influence.)
It’s fast paced and exciting stuff, Curran’s character cameos giving his shreddies some depth so that they aren’t simply faceless victims, letting us care what happens to them. There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about any of it, just the literary equivalent of a popcorn guzzling monster movie, but done with real skill and a zest for the material, and in such a way that it doesn’t outstay its welcome, so that you can’t help but have a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to the thrill ride end of the horror spectrum.
Curran’s novel NIGHTCRAWLERS (DarkFuse eBook/pb, 198pp, S6.99/$16.99) opens with the discovery of several bodies at an isolated farm in Wisconsin. As if that isn’t bad enough, a deputy goes missing and his partner babbles about things hiding in the woods. The search party of ten armed men is attacked by unknown assailants, with several killed. In the cold light of day Chief Kenney learns more of the terrible history of the local area, a series of tragedies that stretches back over many centuries, and what the local law enforcement have been keeping a lid on. Kenney both understands their reasoning and despises the pragmatism behind it, determining that it’s time matters were brought to a head. He leads a party of men into the tunnels that are hidden beneath the local woods, where they encounter a monstrous life form, with the men being picked off one by one. But the worst is yet to come.
Again, this is pretty much par for the course as far as Curran’s oeuvre is concerned, and a fine example of the “for the thrills” school of horror writing, with just that little bit extra by way of final twist/coda. The story is plot driven, with events rapidly escalating, going from murder through to massacre and then on to a possible global extinction event, with the action coming thick and fast. Curran’s gift is that, with a few well-chosen words, he brings his characters to life on the page, and then having lulled the reader into caring about their fate, cranks the tension up to the max before delivering a ghoulish denouement. There’s an excellent back story, with local legends, newspaper reports and eye witness accounts all used to good effect in evoking the sense that something is terribly wrong in this locale, so that like the thoroughly logical Kenney we slowly come to accept the unthinkable as evidence mounts.
And if Curran had left it at that, a thoroughly agreeable and exciting tale of humans fighting against the monstrous, this would have been an excellent book. Instead he takes things one step further, giving us a cosmic and bleak revelation, with the organising intelligence behind the crawlers shown as a Borg type entity, one with no conception of individuality or that others would not want to be part of its hive mind, the book culminating in a vision of cosmic indifference as unique and minatory as any to be found in the work of Lovecraft and his kindred.
DEADLOCK (DarkFuse eBook/limited edition hc, 79pp, $3.49/$35) is the story of hard man and career criminal Charlie Petty, who is heavily in debt to Arturo, and Arturo is not the sort of man to let a debt slide. Nonetheless he offers to waive the debt if Charlie will spend the night aboard haunted ship the Yvonne Addams. Charlie agrees; he doesn’t believe in ghosts, but suspects some kind of trap as, financial matters aside, Arturo has a bone to pick with him of a more personal nature. At night on the ship he has a series of visions that tell him what happened aboard the Addams and reveal something of the nature of the creature that haunts it, an entity that will subsume Charlie himself. Arturo has indeed trapped him, but Charlie comes to realise that the Achilles’ heel which has allowed him to do so is his conception of himself as a hard man, someone who will not run away from anything.
Of the various novellas that I’ve read by Curran this is probably the weakest, though still fun. At bottom what we have here is a familiar haunted house template rather inelegantly shoehorned onto a ship. The back drop, with its echoes of The House on Haunted Hill and similar films, doesn’t quite convince, and none of the characters seemed especially striking, not even the whistling in the dark Charlie, with his hubristic machismo and personal baggage. All things considered, it seemed slightly contrived. Having allowed for that, the images of the creature, and the effects that Curran lays out to forward his story, all work rather well, so that even as it gives us pause what transpires is never less than entertaining, with the unique nature of the monster a most definite plus, and the atmosphere aboard the Addams turned up to ten or more.