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Beneath the Surface by Simon Strantzas

Beneath the Surface

by Simon Strantzas

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    Cold to the Touch by Simon Strantzas (Dead_Dreamer)
    Dead_Dreamer: This is Simon Strantzas' second book. If you liked Beneath the Surface, you'll love Cold to the Touch. The quality of the book is a large step up too.

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Before I finally cracked open Simon Strantzas' first collection of short stories, Beneath the Surface, I was worried it wouldn't live up to what had almost certainly become unrealistic expectations heavily influenced by the sheer difficulty encountered in acquiring this book (which should no longer be a problem starting later this year as Dark Regions Press will be releasing an updated version). Thankfully, my worries turned out to be without merit; Strantzas' freshman collection reads more like the work of an established voice of the genre rather than that of a relative newcomer.

"Behind Glass" is a tale of corporate horror in the vein of Thomas Ligotti. It is the story of Hawksley, a corporate drone starting work for the company that bought out his previous employer. He is the sort that wants nothing more than to disappear into his job for eight hours a day and not be bothered by anyone. His new office building and fellow employees, however, present a mystery that ignites even Hawksley's atrophied sense of curiosity, and what he discovers is chilling.

"You Are Here" is a harrowing story of a man that's lost everything: his love, his home, and, finally, his mind. He has become convinced that if he can return to the spot her first met his lost love, he can begin to unravel the confusing events that led to his current situation. This meeting took place in an underground shopping district that has since been abandoned and sealed off. Instead of answers, however, all the protagonist finds in these forsaken byways is horror, though whether this horror is supernatural in nature of merely the final vestiges of a man's sanity slipping away is left up to the reader.

"A Thing of Love" is something of the odd man out in this collection. If I had to choose one word to describe all the other stories in Beneath the Surface, I would go with "desolate" (or, if I could use a phrase, "The descent into desolation"). This story, however, is, at worst (best?), simply melancholy. It is the tale of a writer who has lost his mother, and with her both his creative drive and, seemingly, his very will to live (this immediately brought to mind the sad story of Robert E. Howard). His editor, who has staked her reputation and livelihood on his next book, has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of communication and, more importantly, progress on the book. She finally decides to be proactive and visit the writer, whereupon she discovers that he's found something of a new muse and has resumed writing. This nature of this new muse is...well, it's weird. I don't mean weird in a sinister way, which would have fit much more coherently in this collection, but weird in an odd way. Don't misunderstand me, this isn't a bad story, it just doesn't fit thematically with everything else.

I've never had to work quite so hard to obtain a book as I did with Beneath the Surface, but I can safely say that the time (and money) was well worth it - though it did sting just a bit when, two days after purchasing this, I read on Strantzas' blog that DRP was doing a reprint; ah well, it's only money. It is rare that a new auther comes along with a debut this strong, and it was a tragedy that Humdrumming was only able to get ~100 copies out the door before going under. But, again, this won't be a problem in a few months and I strongly encourage every horror fan to order this collection as soon as Dark Regions makes it available. ( )
2 vote donaldmcobb | Aug 12, 2010 |
Simon Strantzas is a new Canadian horror author. This is his first book, a collection of modern horror stories. It's really an odd collection. His writing style changes dramatically from story to story. I think he's still trying to discover his own voice. Some stories were obviously influenced by Thomas Ligotti, others by Ramsey Campbell, others still by Robert Aickman -- not to the point of rip-offs, but the influence was undeniable. A couple stories were real gems. These, I suspect, are the ones closest to what will later become Simon's voice, or future Strantzasian tales. A couple were somewhat mediocre, but this is how all authors begin. Still, this was an above average debut. I look forward to seeing how he develops as a writer. ( )
2 vote Dead_Dreamer | Jan 8, 2010 |
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