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Amorous Things / Kody Boye

Library of Horror Press / August 2010
Reviewed by: Daniel R. Robichaud

Kody Boye's collection Amorous Things (originally published by Lame Goat Press in 2009, new edition from The Library of Horror) contains 17 stories that range from dark fantasy to gory horror, from moody meditations to terror tales in the spirit of Stephen King and Tales from the Crypt.  As with most collections, this is a mixed bag — readers will encounter some truly moving prose and some overwrought sentences, some stories that succeed and some that don't. As this is Boye's first collection, it is no surprise to find such range. The surprise comes not from its low points, but from the highs of its successes.

Until reading this book, I was unfamiliar with Boye's work. These stories reveal a writer with promise, though that promise is not yet fully realized.  The fiction is often written with a lyrical language, playful turns of phrase, and some honest emotions. What the stories lack in subtlety, they often make up for with passion.

Unfortunately, several pieces lacked the necessary life details to hit full on verisimilitude. The stories they tell are fantastic in ways they should not be, in ways that broke my ability to suspend disbelief. Whether it's a matter of a homeowner giving no concern to a water bill hike when he wakes to find the outside spigot has been running all night, to the technical detail that completely exposed lungs should collapse instead of continuing to work for weeks/months while the victim watches, there are dozens of places that broke my belief in the fictional situations' reality. Fantasy and horror require a baseline of believability or else a good clue to the ways the story's world is different from the one readers know.

That said, when Boye's fiction is really working, it achieves a dreamlike lucidity and emotional authenticity. The collection's standout story ("Dreams") follows a teacher and his star high school student who share dreams about swans, dragons, and fantastic landscapes. The two discover these nocturnal visions are more than metaphors, when they learn of a swan nested in pollution threatened land. Their struggle to save this majestic creature from its toxic environs makes for a moving tale, a spiritual horror piece. The questions it considers are not only topical (in these days of Gulf oil spills and other environmental issues) but prescient. In many ways, the story reads as purposeful provocation – as stated before, the prose can be unsubtle – but it seldom stoops into either the propagandistic or pedagogical. Answers are not made explicit; questions are.

Boye's driving themes are plain in these tales. The title of the collection suggests affection, and this makes its way into the contents. Many of the stories center on relationships — the two most popular are either widowed men with their remembered spouses, or fathers and their sons. A few surprises leap out however, including a pair of stories that feature well-developed homosexual relationships. One of these, the moving "War is in the Hearts of Men," tackles its Don't Ask, Don't Tell material with a fresh approach and authentic pain.

The stories dealing with the horrific and the supernatural from odd angles are often the strongest pieces in this work. Such fiction as "Elijah" (about the dysfunctional relationship between a beautiful young man and his elderly lover, which builds to a macabre conclusion) and "An Amorous Thing" (exploring the sensations a corpse experiences after its brutal murder) stand head and shoulders above some of the more "traditional" horror pieces, such as "Beautiful Woman" (wherein a masked woman-creature uses the question "Am I beautiful?" to determine what boys she will mutilate with a hook). Boye's strengths lie in evoking the unfamiliar otherworldly. Reliance upon the familiar ghosts or torturing lunatics often results in less interesting reads.

Boye is still finding his way in his fiction. While Amorous Things has its share of shortcomings, its contents also suggest a promising future for this storyteller. Many of these tales are still early pieces, but they are not amateur works.

Purchase Amorous Things by Kody Boye.

Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 12:12PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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