Where All is Night and Starless is the most recent collection of stories by John Linwood Grant. It’s broken down into three categories of stories: On Mythos (cosmic horror-style tales),
On Mysteries (uncanny stories) and On Myths (fantasy oriented yarns). John is an extraordinary storyteller whose masterfully deft touch at crafting unique characters and conveying strong atmosphere is on full display here. I really enjoyed all these stories, but if I were to choose the ones which were my overall favorites they would be: “Strange Perfumes of the Polar Suns”, “With the Dark and the Storm”,“Lines of Sight”, “Where All Is Night, And Starless”, “Marjorie Learns To Fly”, “Records of the Dead”, “A Slow, Remembered Tide”, “Sanctuary” and “Hungery”. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection which I highly recommend.
Sundry Reflections Concerning A Rather Difficult Cosmos
1. “Strange Perfumes of the Polar Suns” (2019) – After a large section of ice melts off a mountain in Antarctica to reveal an ancient city, the countries of the world move to take advantage of it. An international agency known as the UNAS is put in place to control the flow of information coming from it. Meanwhile, a reclusive sculptor in England is influenced by a group of four entities which present themselves as women but that are obviously something else. These women, called The Four, direct her to carve a model for them in the attic of her apartment. This is risky, however, as the UNAS and other shadowy groups are constantly monitoring such activities. People soon come to realize that the fictional stories of H. P. Lovecraft, specifically In The Mountains of Madness, got several details shockingly correct. This is a superbly told tale which keeps you hooked all the way through. This is one of my favorite stories read this year.
2. “Messages” (2016) – A mother and her daughter prove more formidable and dedicated to a dark elder entity they serve than they are to the cultist they must deal with to attain a rare, occult book they seek titled The Book of Lost Battles.
3. “With the Dark and the Storm” (2017) – Set in a Nigerian village in 1925, an obsessive white cultist and his armed guards build a mission in an area near eight large, standing stones which the locals know to be cursed. The leader of the mission Father Brennan seeks to awaken a presence in the forest around the stones by using the local Nigerian children. Nduka, the village headman, seeks to stop this in order to save the children and their village. This is a great tale which evokes the setting well and keeps the tension high.
4. “Lines of Sight” (2021) – When a woman named Angie hears what sounds like a bad fall from the apartment above hers, she goes up to offer assistance. The older man who lives there lets her in to help as he’s badly sprained his ankle. In the processes she notices his leg is covered in terrible scars which resemble strange, disturbing symbols. She finds she can’t stop thinking of these odd patterns after she leaves. Deciding she must learn more, she goes and talks with him about it. That is when she learns the strange tale of his life, his ritualistic scarring, the love of his life who mysteriously vanished, and a quest he’s been on. This is a touching, sad tale about lonely people, obsession and loss.
5. “Where All Is Night, And Starless” (2018)– The lone survivor from a 1919 troop of British men who were tunneling deep into the Earth to set explosives against the Germans, recounts his dreadful tale of that day. He and his men stumbled upon a terrifying, ancient intelligence in the lower depths and pay a steep price for the discovery. This is another excellent tale with an interesting creature at its core.
Various Observations On Matters Strange
6. “Where the Thin Men Die” (2021)– Tomás is a man struggling to make it as a comedian. In 1975 he meets an aging legend of the circuit named Harold Freeman, nicknamed Black Harry. Black Harry has a very special skill to effect his audience in very dark ways and Tomás is no exception.
7. “Marjorie Learns To Fly” (2019) – One day Marjorie begins to notice subtle but distinctive changes in the things she likes to eat, do, and places she likes to go. As this continues and becomes more pronounced, she senses outside influences are somehow psychically affecting her. This causes her to try and unravel the mystery of who, or what, could be the cause. This is an interesting, well-told story which was written as an homage to the late R. Chetwynd-Hayes.
8. “Wires” (2018)– A man who works as the high-wire walker for a traveling circus in Oklahoma in 1968 develops a strong connection with a stranger who approaches them one day to join the troop. Something is not right with this man whose skin is too smooth and who seems unused to interacting with people. His being there seems to portend something bad on the horizon.
9. “Today Is Tuesday” (2020) – Told from the point of view of a disturbed, agoraphobic man who lives with his sister and caretaker, we learn about his cloistered life and later of the horrific events which forged it.
10. “Records of the Dead” (2019) – Set in 1974, a woman researches any archive she can uncover in her search to find lost film reels at the behest of her elderly, rich aunt. This investigation leads her down many interesting routes as she pieces together the film to discover its dark, morbid ending. This is another fun and intriguing tale.
Some Roots Unearthed, and Cunning Remembered
11. “A Farewell to Worms” (2019) – A resourceful Kallikantzaroi schemes to put an end to his kind’s relentless task of sawing through the Tree of Life all year long only to have it regenerate at Christmas time.
12. “A Slow, Remembered Tide” (2019) – In mid-November, a lonely man in a dissolving marriage returns to the coastal town where he grew up where he gets drawn into a local ceremony called Martinmas to honor those who perished at sea. This is a great story which really evokes the feel of an offseason, seaside town in every word and is steeped in sorrow and loss.
13. “For She Is Falling” (2018) – An unknown woman is taken into care after being hit by a car but apparently uninjured. She doesn’t want to be there and fights to escape. She may not be exactly who, or what, others think.
14. “Sanctuary” (2018) – The small seaside village of Gorse Muttering is forced to deal with an incursion of beings who live under the water after a finfolk woman arrives seeking sanctuary with the locals. This is a fun story with a great ending!
15. “Hungery” (2016) – A bullied young boy is forced to enter the rundown apartment near his home which is said to be the lair of a menacing Ogre. What he finds there will change his life.
16. “The Horse Road” (2016) – This is an origin story for Mr. Bubbles, a powerful mystically gifted horse who can see creatures from dark realms who roam the Earth seeking to pillage and do harm. When those creatures come for his beloved young caretaker Sandra, he moves against them.
17. “At Vrysfontein, Where the Earthwolf Prowls” (2021) – While stationed at a concentration camp during the Boer War, Lieutenant Redvers Blake witnesses the terrible conditions those held there are forced to endure.
John’s Website: http://greydogtales.com/blog/
Reviewed by Matt Cowan