Haunted house stories have been run into the ground and, in most cases, should be boarded up due to the tropes that lazy writing cannot fix. In recent years, only a few have managed to introduce something new. Examples include House of Leaves, The Unseen, and The Haunted, each bringing a new wrinkle to the subgenre.
Those familiar with the works of William Meikle know that the author conjures up some pretty freaky designs on plot and setting (The Hole and Fungoid quickly come to mind) and when this novel was released, readers hoped he would continue to eschew the tried and true.
Songs of Dreaming Gods is a story that cannot easily be described. That’s a good thing. It makes for a solid read that also stretches the imagination, often having the reader flip back a few pages to catch all the nuances and story twists that make this something new. It’s far more than a haunted house story. What it is will be up to the reader. Is it horror? Definitely. But what else is it?
A trio of local cops are called to a house where a bloodbath has occurred. Several bodies, or what’s left of them, are discovered. What’s been done to them is inhuman…and perhaps unearthly.
John Green, Janis Lodge and Todd Wiggins begin to understand that this is unlike any other crime they’ve ever encountered. Fresh from his recovery from knife wounds that should have killed him, Green takes point on the case and enters the house later that day, alone. Doors that led to the stained floors where the forensic team should be now open up to another room, some place not in his reality. Each of them come to the house with their own wounds, mental or physical, and face different doors, each of which lead to scenes and realities that break down what each has known in his or her life.
Like the aforementioned titles, Songs of Dreaming Gods is decidedly different from the haunted house canon. What it is isn’t important. What is important is the telling of the story and layering of both the house and characters. Once the characters dig deeper in the house, and themselves, the reality they knew cannot be retrieved. All they can hope for is to escape with whatever the house allows them.
A fast read, a good read, Meikle’s latest is a welcome addition. Recommended reading.