cover image The View from Hell

The View from Hell

John Shirley. Subterranean Press, $35 (190pp) ISBN 978-1-931081-09-2

Less than six months after the publication by Cemetery Dance of his mini-masterpiece Demons, Shirley returns with another small-press offering that pushes the envelope of fantasy and horror and strengthens his reputation as one of today's most daring authors of metaphysical fiction. This short novel's premise is that bodiless, ""inter-dimensional"" beings are conducting studies of humanity, particularly our species' relationship to suffering. First they survey humanity on Earth--abused, violent children; tormented patients in hospitals; a family being tortured by drug dealers; and so on. Then the beings focus on a small set of adult men and women in uppercrust L.A., whom they propel into varied acts of homicidal mayhem. The perpetrators and their victims then wake up in a bland, eerie purgatory, ""about as a big as a coliseum... there are side rooms with different kinds of environments."" Most notably, there's no exit, other than a momentary respite when one of the inhabitants dies. This hiatus proves as addictive as any drug, and, over time, the captives descend into bestial psychological depths and fling themselves into horrific murders and suicides in order to taste that sweet escape. Shirley is an unpredictable writer, and this is one of his most bizarre bits of writing to date. It's an expertly crafted, ferocious tale that offers a stinging commentary on the worst (and the best) in humans. Graphic to the max, it's bound to be misinterpreted by some and is simply too strong for many, but it's yet another serious work from an important writer and deserves careful consideration by anyone interested in the radical edge of horror. (Jan.)