Secret Hours
Michael Cisco

Mythos Books
$15.00, 134 Pages
Review by Kent Knopp-Schwyn

Literary Horror! If those two words invoke a desire to crack open any titles by such luminaries as Thomas Ligotti or Ramsay Campbell or Jeff Vandermeer, then run out and buy this volume by Michael Cisco immediately. As with many Mythos Books productions, the page count belies the dense volume of words contained within and, as usual, the book has been capably edited free of typos that would otherwise distract form the pleasure of reading the stories within. To enhance the experience, sprinkled throughout the book are some interesting and unusual images created by the ever capable Harry O’Morris or by Jason Eckhardt or by Thomas Brown. As to the words and stories within the covers; through careful and evocative word choice, they transport the reader to fantastical lands often populated with weird and unsavory characters.

With a few novels and short story collections under his belt, Mr. Cisco has already crafted an impressive body very literate horror and this book of short stories is no exception. Each word in each story has been carefully selected and placed to masterfully paint pictures in the mind’s eye of debauched societies, corrupt individuals or degenerate worlds. For instance, any author can refer to the old house down the block as dilapidated or crumbling or simply haunted and the reader moves on from that brief description to the next action set piece. However, in Mr. Cisco’s hands such a house, as described in “What He Chanced to Mould in Play,” is rendered in a fashion that transports the reader directly to the doorstep of a house no one should willingly enter:

The house was old and sodden, like s soggy cardboard box. It smelled strongly of mildew and the earwax odor that old houses generally have. The rain was beginning to fall more seriously now. I was greeted by a brown man, who invited me inside through a gash in the wall.

All fourteen of the stories in this book contain descriptive passages that are often ever more suggestive of decay or weirdness; leading the reader ever deeper into worlds that are gracefully weird and inhabited with characters the reader would not want to meet in real life. These exemplary descriptive sections do sometimes have the effect of blunting explicit horror and often evoking less a feeling of terror in the reader but more a sense of awe and wonder at the spectacle presented. Depending upon personal preferences, this book could provide the reader with 14 amazing diversions to into the extraordinarily weird.

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