review of weird fictionMichael Griffin’s THE LURE of DEVOUR­ING LIGHT is the short story col­lec­tion of an excep­tional writer, whose evoca­tive, lyri­cal tales are impos­si­ble to for­get. Griffin’s work has been described as “quiet hor­ror”, a sub­genre of Weird Fic­tion. Con­sid­er­ing that Griffin’s prose is both bold and often graphic, the descrip­tion may be some­what misleading.

Nature – seduc­tive, tan­ta­liz­ing, and ulti­mately unknow­able – is fre­quently the set­ting of these sto­ries. In “Far From Streets”, city dwellers Dane and Car­olyn seek renewal by spend­ing week­ends at a cabin Dane built by hand. Sin­is­ter omens abound – from the bird that beats itself to death try­ing to escape the newly fin­ished cabin to the starv­ing young man who seems to be keep­ing watch on them. In the mid­dle of this daunt­ing land­scape, Dane and Car­olyn become lost in more ways than one. As Grif­fin writes of the belea­gered Dane, “Noth­ing had pre­pared him for the pos­si­bil­ity of mean­ings deeper than office toil, with short breaks for television.”

In “Dream­ing Awake In the Tree of the World”, the enig­matic Nomia appears to be a tree-​dwelling nature sprite, a kinswoman per­haps to Rima in GREEN MAN­SIONS. She has res­cued the ill-​fated Tomas and nursed him back to health high in the tree­tops. But in Griffin’s work, real­ity is rarely what it seems. Is Tomas safe in the heart of lush, wild nature or is he fac­ing some­thing alto­gether dif­fer­ent and more deadly?

In “The Acci­dent of Sur­vival”, a ter­ri­fy­ing near-​miss on the high­way leaves two peo­ple badly shaken. As they con­tinue to their des­ti­na­tion, how­ever, it becomes increas­ingly unclear who’s sur­vived and who per­haps hasn’t, and how peo­ple “shaken loose from life” can strug­gle to reclaim reality.

Griffin’s prose sings, but his for­mi­da­ble power resides in his abil­ity to make us doubt our own senses, his abil­ity to explore the deeply unsta­ble and shapeshift­ing nature of what we blithely con­sider ‘reality’.

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