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Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Threshold (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Caitlin R. Kiernan

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4661922,239 (3.66)9
Authors:Caitlin R. Kiernan
Info:Roc (2007), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Bookmooch, Fantasy, Horror
Tags:Fantasy, Bookmooch, Horror

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Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan (2007)


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Ever since she and her friends Deacon and Elise went to the water tunnel and something terrifying occurred that they refuse to face, nothing has gone right for Chance Matthews. Following in her paleontologist grandparents' footsteps, Chance deals with just about everyone she cares about dying: her grandmother, Elise (both apparently suicides), and now her grandfather. But when Dancy Flammarion, a young albino girl, turns up and tells her they need to fight monsters everything Chance knows to be true is turned on its head.

This was a really atmospheric, creepy book of urban fantasy. Kiernan's work has been compared to Lovecraft, and I can definitely see echoes of that. She has a unique style and creates compound words that could be jarring but instead lend a sort of lyrical quality to the writing. Chance, Dancy, Deacon and Sadie (Deacon's latest girlfriend) were all really flawed characters but ultimately people I could root for. So much for what I liked... what I didn't is that I don't know what the heck just happened. There are no clear answers, or if they are, I missed them entirely which left a really unsettled feeling that I think was intentional. ( )
  bell7 | Aug 5, 2016 |
One of the worst books I've ever read....it may be only my opinion but it's boring I really didn't enjoy this at all...God only knows how I read as much as I did
( )
  Shazarah | Feb 6, 2016 |
Having been impressed by a couple of her Lovecraftian stories and her appearance as one of those interviewed for the documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, I decided to give one of her novels a try - particularly after hearing it was not only Lovecraftian but featured geology and paleontology.

Chance Matthews, grad student in paleontology, is alone in the world. Orphaned at a young age, she's now without the grandparents, also geologists and paleontologists, who raised her. Her friend Elsie committed suicide. Grief stricken and trying to concentrate on her studies, she's in no mood to see ex-boyfriend Deacon, present gothish girlfriend in tow along with one Dancy Flammarion (evidently a character in several Kiernan works). As if Dancy's albino looks and freakish insistence on seeing her wasn't enough, Dancy also insists Chance has to help her kill some monsters. It's all a lot of mental patient crazy talk until Chance finds some strange fossils her grandmother secreted away before killing herself. And it may just have to do with whatever Chance, Deacon, and Elsie saw one strange night, at novel's beginning, in the waterworks of Birmingham, Alabama.

Like most of the best Lovecraft inspired authors, Kiernan does no slavish imitation of Lovecraft. The plotting owes as much to Beowulf Translated with an Introduction and Afterword by Burton as Lovecraft though Lovecraft gets an explicit mention (as does Algernon Blackwood, Lewis Carroll, and the poet Longfellow). No characters, places, monsters, or books show up from Lovecraft. The inspiration is more subtle in the physical appearance of the novel's menace and, particularly, in the promise of the novel's subtitle: "A Novel of Deep Time". For the menace is from deep time. There is one beautiful passage where Chance has a vision of Alabama's Silurian age. (And, for those who need it, Kiernan, formerly a professional paleontologist, provides a glossary of terms.)

And that beauty is part of another subtle promise Kiernan makes on the copyright page: "The book is best read aloud." Kiernan does provide read-aloud prose -- carefully paced, sonorous, and sprinkled with occasional coinages of her own.

Lovecraft characters almost always seem divorced from any life with family and friends, and that is definitely not the case here. The trinity of Chance, Deacon, and Sadie are most definitely attached to other people - even if only their memories.

Kiernan tells her story with an interesting technique of describing a scene, often leaving the scene before its climax, and then going to another scene in the past which provides answers to the resolution of other scenes.

The one thing that may frustrate readers is the novel's end. This story does not neatly resolve all the loose ends and mysteries. As one character says, "Some stories don't have endings. In some stories, there aren't even answers." Kiernan's resolution is not neat, perhaps too messily like real life for some. But it's obviously a considered choice not incompetence. While I think not resolving major questions is a sin in some genres, I think it can be appropriate to a mystery horror novel of deep time, and it worked for me the more I think about it.

In other words, I was impressed by Kiernan the novelist as much as Kiernan the short story writer, and I'll be reading more of her. ( )
  RandyStafford | Mar 9, 2012 |
Brilliant and creepy and then brilliant some more.
  omnia_mutantur | Jan 14, 2012 |
I have a feeling I’m going to have a lot of people disagree with my opinion of Threshold. From what I’ve seen, it, and the author, Caitlín Kiernan, are well-respected by a lot of other authors, and she has a devoted fan base. I have to say, though, that Threshold is, at best, a poor attempt at a Lovecraftian novel that manages to read more like a pretentious Christopher Pike manuscript.

Full review: http://libwen.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/threshold-by-caitlin-kiernan/ ( )
  juliayoung | Jun 9, 2011 |
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"All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know." - J.R.R. Tolkien (1947)
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The girl named Chance is standing in the rain, plain and skinnytall girl shivering beneath the April night sky pissing rain like icywet needles, and she can't stop giggling.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 045146124X, Mass Market Paperback)

Chance Matthews is drawn into a battle between angels and monsters because of something in her possession-a fossil of a creature that couldn't possibly have ever existed. But it did. And still does.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Paleontologist Chance Matthews and her boyfriend psychic Deke Silvey meet Dancy Flammarion, an albino girl who believes she is a demon hunter. Dancy believes that their night under the old water works on a mountain near Birmingham, Alabama, awakened an ancient and hostile supernatural force. Chance meanwhile is disturbed by a strange fossil from the mountain.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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