By Peter Tieryas Liu
Signal 8 Press
October, 2012; $15.95 PB
The stories collected in Watering Heaven by Peter Tieras Liu are not horror in the conventional sense, but they are beautifully written and have enough of a dark and strange bent that they will be of interest to some Hellnotes readers. Most are reprinted from literary journals, but others were first published in markets that feature surrealism and more literary genre fiction. Several could be accurately described as weird tales, or magical realism. There are also many allusions to Chinese folklore, urban legend, and H. P. Lovecraft, making it clear that the author’s interests range to the strange and fantastical. Liu has a strong voice, and his prose is filled with rich and eccentric imagery. Within these pieces you will encounter mutant rats, a woman who lays an egg every time she has sex, people who have lost their reflection, and the damaged inhabitants of tragic urban wastelands. Characters struggle to navigate postmodern global landscapes, drowning in static and alienation. Identity and connection are profoundly tenuous things for these individuals, most of whom are acutely aware of their isolation and the uncertainty of their existence. People are unable to trust their senses, their history, or others. There is a pervasive sense of alienation and loss at work throughout the volume.
A great deal of horror is essentially escapist in nature, distracting us from the concerns of real life with imaginary scares. Watering Heaven directs the reader’s attention to the dread lying beneath the surface of everyday life and the effect is somewhat haunting. If not horror, per se, the stories do communicate a very contemporary sense of anxiety and discomfort that is disquieting on an existential level.