Review: ‘Night Moves’ by Mary SanGiovanni

Night Moves by Mary SanGiovanni
Post Mortem Press (July 2017)

216 pages, $16.00 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Fair warning: you may be disappointed to find out that Night Moves is not themed around the works of Bob Seger and his hallowed band of Silver Bullet miscreants. However, it does contain seven short stories and two novellas by one of the finest purveyors of weird horror in the business.

These are quiet, subdued tales which unnerve and disturb through a soft shifting of reality. Take, for instance, “The Mime,”a story which reminded me of Thomas Ligotti’s “The Last Feast of Harlequin” in the best of ways. It takes the absurd concept of a man haunted by the titular stylized performance artist and, through steady, patient and masterful tightening of tension, managed to leave me positively terrified.

While several of the stories here are more Lovecraftian than I would usually prefer, none of them are bound by the stiff detatchment which make so many genre works feel far too cold and clinical. “The Anathema Cell,” for example, keeps the core of its alien-relic-infecting-humanity yarn solidly in the humane by keeping it all about the effect of the events upon the individuals caught up in them. In doing so, it packs a heck of a punch.

However, it is the less Lovecraft-styled work which really grabbed me. “Okiku,” an ostensible ghost story of the psychic cost of survival; “Shadow Puppets,” which uses ye olde closet monster as a metaphor for exploring the emotional weight of grief; and “Baby Teeth,” which delves into the pain caused by tying personal purpose in external sources, are all as emotionally devastating as they are chilling. “The Last Things to Go” is the one that really takes the cake. All traditional horror is completely absent here. There is no monster, no blood, no death or even the threat of it. Yet, it is so fraught with unease that it shook me to my core.

In the tense silence between the lightning and the thunder,  Mary Sangiovanni has plenty worth working on.

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