cover image The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

Brian Evenson. Coffee House, $16.95 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-56689-611-5

“The world is a hell because we have made it so,” begins a story in Evenson’s towering collection of nightmarish horror, sci-fi parables, and weird tales (after Song for the Unraveling of the World). Indeed, devils abound while mortals plant the seeds of their own damnation. In “Leg,” an otherworldly creature disguises itself as the eponymous appendage; a man is blamed for his wife’s disappearance in “Come Up”; “The Coldness of His Eyes” features a man drawn back to the cave where he murdered his father; and in the novella “To Breathe the Air,” the son of a legendary scientist ventures into the unbreathable atmosphere of the “high city” and falls into the clutches of its inhuman denizens. Elsewhere the reader encounters plenty of psychic parasites, post-human ruins, and places that seem to exist between realities. Evenson’s direct, uncluttered style is perfectly suited to the creeping unease of “The Devil’s Hand,” featuring a card game with a sinister stranger who plays for unusual stakes; or the title story, about a woman enrolled in a cultish seminar. Narrators include an “eater of darkness,” who lives chained to members of a hooded sect, and a forest dweller working to keep the old ways of his people alive. “Once I take you there,” ends another story, “you’ll have a hard time dragging yourself away.” The same could be said of Evenson’s unforgettable work, drawn from the darkest corners of the imagination and nearly impossible to forget. Agent: Matt McGowan, Frances Goldin Literary. (Aug.)