cover image Sefira and Other Betrayals

Sefira and Other Betrayals

John Langan. Hippocampus, $20 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-61498-192-3

The horrors elaborated in the eight stories in Langan’s exceptional third collection (after 2013’s The Wide, Carnivorous Sky) all arise from intensely intimate instances of personal betrayal and the emotional unmooring it causes, their vast cosmic scope notwithstanding. In the title tale, a woman tracks the femme fatale who has seduced her husband across the country, gradually acquiescing to the realization that her rival is a formidable succubus from time immemorial. “In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos” is a slice of supernatural noir whose characters are trapped in a web of double-crosses and deceptions designed to propitiate the dark forces controlling their fates. “At Home in the House of the Devil” features an appearance by Old Scratch himself as the personal tormentor of a man who abandoned his drug-addicted lover in her hour of need. Langan laces his tales with allusions to the work of Henry James and other heavyweight writers, but the horrors he evokes are unique to their stories, as in “Bor Urus,” in which the reality-bending storms its narrator chases seem an externalized expression of his own troubled psyche, and “The Third Always Beside You,” in which “the other woman” feeds vampirically off a marital relationship. This book is a treasure trove for lovers of literary horror fiction. (Apr.)