Astonishing beauty lies in the eye of the predator: The Devourers by Indra Das / Belleza increíble yace en los ojos de un depredador: The Devourers de Indra Das

Note: The Spanish translation following this post is by Daniela Toulemonde. 

Having read several of Indra Das’s short stories (reviewed here), I ordered his first novel, The Devourers, as soon as I could find the North American edition from Del Rey Books. It arrived when I was in the last leg of my WIP’s second draft, so I sat it on my desk and admired the cover, illustrated by Chris Panatier, for three weeks before I so much as read the title page.

Devourers

Sorry for the sloppy photo of The Devourers cover. Hats off to artist and illustrator Chris Panatier for capturing the novel’s wonder and beauty.  

When I finally started the first chapter I was afraid I had such high expectations I would be disappointed and absolutely unfair to the author. I was not disappointed. I was overwhelmed by Das’s shape shifters, the beautiful writing and the creatively imagined Indian landscapes from the 17th century to today. This one is going to win prizes, people. I promise you that.

Here’s a little taste of Das’s writing.

When the sun rested at noon we passed a group of resting dervishes under the greened shade of a chinar tree, turbaned heads bobbing in a drugged stupor from drinking bhang, and I wondered whether I, too, had been drugged into a trance days long. I felt fevered, whether from the strangeness of these days or simply from catching a cold I couldn’t say. The holy men basked in winter light falling through the leaves, their reddened eyes rolling to watch us pass them by, their fingers soiled from crushing the buds and leaves they put into their potions. I wanted to ask them: Can you see this bone-white man walking beside me, dressed in pelts and hauling fardels? Can you see the thing he can become? Have you spied it at night, galloping across the land? Gévaudan peered at them with hungry eyes, and the air sang with silence.

The Devourers begins as a buddy story, and our protagonist, a history professor named Alok Mukherjee, is a bit Vyasa, a bit Watson, a bit Clarice Starling. His casually met counterpart identifies himself as half werewolf in their first encounter and puts Alok into a trance where he has visions of even stranger characters in a story that the half werewolf tells him. The history professor is hooked and compelled to discover more about this strange man, and so was I. Continue reading

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Review: The dead rise and raise questions in “Breaking Water” / Reseña: Los muertos reviven y suscitan preguntas en “Breaking Water”

As regular readers know, I am a raging Indophile. and nothing makes me happier than reading good fiction from the subcontinent, which is what I found in “Breaking Water” by Indrapramit Das. Although probably best categorized as horror, the story is more fascinating than horrifying as it questions aspects of that most critical boundary–the one between life and death.

marigold3Readers enter the story when Krishna, a poor man bathing in the Hooghly river, finds a corpse. In the first lovely sentences we are hauled up close to the sacred and the profane.

“A face beneath sun-speckled ripples—to his eyes a drowned idol, paint flaking away and clay flesh dissolving. But it was nothing so sacred as a discarded goddess. The surface broke to reveal skin that was not painted on, long soggy hair that had caught the detritus of the river like a fisherman’s net.”

A priest suggests to Krishna that he might have some responsibility to care for the corpse, but Krishna ultimately leaves the corpse behind like so much trash on the side of the river. The corpse rises and starts following Krishna’s footprints in the mud. Others, and this is entirely believable if you have ever visited a river in India, ignore the woman or silently berate her for shamelessly wandering about the ghat naked. Continue reading

Spring: a good season for reading and writing horror

FoxSpring has crept forward like the fox who lives in the brush behind the abandoned house nearby. He has been on high alert, sniffing the air and disappearing like smoke for weeks. Like him, this year’s spring was unwilling to touch the edge of winter’s hold, much less challenge it. Very slowly the moon has drawn the fox out, and now he plays about in my yard when he thinks no one is watching. This week he has been so bold as to rest under the forsythia and trot among the boxwoods with his mate. No one can deny that spring is here.

Ah, spring!

In between bursts of gardening, during which weeds and I spar like Foreman and Ali, I am reading a good bit of horror. This often happens to me at this time of year. Perhaps this habit of reading horror in spring is tied to the violent emergence of life in the garden and the brutal rule of the gardener. How can one be unaffected by the painful decision to rip out a much-loved spirea by its roots so that the butterfly plant will survive? Or fail to enjoy amputating the deadwood in the crape myrtle? How can one help but be impressed by the slow, insectile unfolding of a peony or the cut-short scream of a young rabbit that will feed the vixen and her kits?

Horror is welling up in the short stories I’m working on right now. One story is set in a world where a virus is causing a dangerous psychosis in males. In another story a great aunt finds herself as the last bastion of defense against water creatures with a hunger for young humans.

Every night before I sleep, I’m rereading The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman. In the daylight I’m also reading Maya’s New Husband by Neil D’Silva, which is so gore-soaked it’s almost too much for me. As soon as I’m done with those, it’s going to be The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (aka Mike Carey) and Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley. I’m also looking forward to The Devourers by Indrapramit Das when it’s available here in North America.

Are you reading any horror now? What has you checking under the bed? I’m particularly interested in new horror by female authors, so send your recommendations.