cover image And at My Back I Always Hear

And at My Back I Always Hear

Scott Nicolay. Word Horde, $19.99 trade paper (388p) ISBN 978-1-956252-02-6

World Fantasy Award winner Nicolay’s uneven second collection (after Ana Kai Tangata) consists of eight contemplative stories set in recognizable worlds punctuated with splashes of horror. A man and his dog jump trains to traverse increasingly surreal landscapes in “Tenebrionidae.” In “Noctuidae,” one of two stories that relies on sexual violence for its scares, Sue-Min wakes to her boyfriend’s creepy best friend on top of her while a large shadow that evaporates anything it touches blocks her escape. Colleen, in “After,” stays against orders in her Jersey house in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and discovers a creature stalking the night. A cocky golden boy needles his fellow intern during menial tasks at a secretive factory in “The Anodizing Line.” “The Green Eye” blends urban myth with meta-fiction on Nicolay’s childhood. In the near-future set “The Always Rising of the Night,” Deidre travels to the former state of California in search of her missing daughter and encounters a strange ritual. Nicolay’s stories all take a while to get going, with dragging buildups before the weirdness is introduced. Still, the delicate, often unexplained horror brings the chills. Patient readers will find plenty to enjoy. (May)