The seventh book I’m reviewing is GrimNoir, a collection of seven short stories by Kevin Wright. Each of these stories is different, and while the genres of fantasy, epistolary, detective, and steampunk were all present, the genre appearing in each story was horror. These are primarily horror stories.
Writing a review for this book without going into the strengths and weaknesses of each individual story is difficult, especially since there was so much diversity to this book. The characters of each story have different personalities and different values, the themes are wildly different, even the style of writing is wildly different. I do not know Kevin Wright personally, but I assume that the stories he put into this book were written at different times, perhaps at different stages of his growth as a writer. Some of the stories had a more mature feeling to them than others, but I am speculating. The nature of the horror varied from story to story. In some of them it was supernatural horror, the work of spiritual forces left deliberately mysterious. In others, the horror was in the bitter realities of human behavior, consequences of the vicious selfishness humans will resort to when struggling to survive. This was very well done.
One other unifying factor to these stories was, as the book’s title suggests, they are grim. They are unrelentingly grim. Through the first four stories, I was wishing for some comic relief, something to give contrast to all of the blood and fear and vindictiveness of the book. The fifth story, in which a poor boy in a medieval setting must go through with a duel against a noble whom he insulted while drunk, gave that comic relief. This story is quite grim in its conclusion as well, and it was the only story with comedy in it. There’s nothing wrong with the book being unrelentingly grim, but readers who are turned off by those kinds of stories will not enjoy this book. They are not the book’s target audience. The book’s target audience, I think, will love it.
The style and quality of the writing vary from story to story. In the first two, I was impressed with how tight and clean the prose was, but I was also put off a little by the frequent use of repeated two-word sentences for dramatic effect. This device was abandoned in after the second story, and following that the writing was for the most part excellent. The final story, ‘The Brazil Business’, is written as a series of letters between brothers in Massachusetts and Brazil during the 1930s, and the writing of those letters was very nearly flawless.
‘The Brazil Business’ was in my opinion the best story in the book, and it read almost like a pastiche of H.P. Lovecraft (of whom I have read ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ and a long anthology titled The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales). This is, for the most part, a good thing. The horror was well-executed, the descriptions were perfect, and the characters were quite believable. The only potential trouble I saw with the story was that the Lovecraftian characters and Lovecraftian setting also carried the racial ideas that permeate Lovecraft’s work. I wasn’t overly bothered by this, but I recognized that it was there, and I recognize that other readers might be bothered by it.
Overall, GrimNoir excelled as a horror anthology. I would recommend it to anybody who likes horror fiction.
Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:
As a final note, my book of fantasy novellas, Tales of Cynings Volume I, will be available for just 99 cents on Kindle from June 12 to June 18. I am of course biased, but I recommend it to readers who like fantasy.