cover image Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters

Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters

John Langan, . . Prime, $24.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8095-7249-6

As Elizabeth Hand aptly observes in her introduction to this exceptional debut horror collection, Langan's tales “celebrate supernatural fiction's antiquarian and visionary past with as much eloquence and acuity—and terror—as they explore the dark heart of the 21st century.” The richly atmospheric title story evokes the weird fiction of both Henry James and M.R. James in its account of a family cursed with a demonic familiar with a ravenous appetite for disobedient children. “On Skua Island,” a relentlessly creepy monster story, pits a team of modern espionage operatives against an implacable creature of the living dead out of Norse legend. The five tales run the gamut from supernatural satire (“Tutorial”) to apocalyptic nightmare (“Episode Seven”), but whatever their theme or tone, Langan shows uncommon skill at balancing character, plot and mood to achieve the perfect pitch for each. Horror readers will welcome a new voice speaking in a classic tongue. (Dec.)