cover image Stories from the Plague Years

Stories from the Plague Years

Michael Marano, Cemetery Dance, $40 (250p) ISBN 978-1-58767-218-7

This feeble collection of nine horror stories opens with an untranslated chunk of medieval Italian, fair warning of Marano's fondness for self-conscious hyperallusiveness ("His voice was soothing and unsettling, like HAL's in 2001") that strains to impress rather than express. The two previously unpublished stories, "Displacement" and "Shibboleth," are the worst offenders: lacking discipline, the words run amok, a verbal wall against reader empathy. The others fare somewhat better. "Little Round Head" even makes an emotional connection thanks to its protagonist, a human child raised by animals. Mostly, the narcissistic narrators marinate in adolescent resentment and self-righteousness. Recurrent imagery and themes—eyes like stones, cigarettes, AIDS, monstrous women, abused children who grow up to wreak murderous havoc—dig a rut without ever gaining traction. (Nov.)