cover image Silk


Caitlin R. Kiernan. Roc, $7.99 (351pp) ISBN 978-0-451-45668-7

Despite its title, there's nothing smooth or sexy about this skin-crawling debut from Kiernan, an author with one helluvan imagination and a startling lack of inhibition. At the center of this modern gothic horror story is Spyder Baxter, a deeply troubled young woman haunted by terrifying memories of childhood and her insane, abusive father. But his transgressions were so heinous that the demons aren't just in her head anymore; they've taken on a life of their own and are taking over Spyder's house, crawling out of the basement and into everything and everyone she cares about. Caught in Spyder's web of bad karma are a motley crew of disenfranchised Gen Xers all living on the edge and trying to heal various psychic wounds of their own. They've each got plenty of reasons to be hallucinating, and the author does a good job of blurring the lines between their bad acid trips and spectral sightings. But reading Kiernan is rather like deciphering entrails, filled with the violence of raw, edgy words: ""The angry screech of denied retribution, raging shadows and nightshade teeth."" Her rambling metaphors (""Dull smack of her shoulder against the wall, again and again, meat-thud tattoo"") hint at inexperience, but her naked energy will appeal to grungers weaned on The Hunger. (June)