Michael Cisco's The Wretch of the Sun was published by Hippocampus Press in June 2016.
Information about Michael Cisco:
Michael Cisco is an American writer, teacher, and translator. He is best known for his first novel, The Divinity Student, winner of the International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel of 1999. His novel, The Great Lover, was nominated for the 2011 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel of the Year, and declared the Best Weird Novel of 2011 by the Weird Fiction Review. He has described his work as "de-genred" fiction. (from Wikipedia)
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about The Wretch of the Sun:
A haunted house is a house with its own story. A ghost is someone about whom stories are told, who is unable to tell his or her own story. Death can be understood as the inability to tell one’s own story; whether that death is literal is another question. Ghosts exist in imagination, which is real. A story, to be a told story, needs a listener or reader. Ghosts, as I have been saying, appear to need someone to whom to appear. So we discover the story of the suicides, and we solve the riddle alongside the narrating busy body of the story, and bury the bones together in one grave; the disturbances cease. But a house once haunted will always be haunted; it isn’t the disturbance but the story that haunts it.
The haunted house draws attention to the secret it keeps like a master who teases his pupils with unanswerable riddles. Or like secret police, who can’t be entirely effective if they are entirely secret. These aren’t questions that contain their own answers, like math problems. I do not have the answer any more than you do, because the answer isn’t in the question, the answer is to leave behind the idea that a question is a door that an answer pulls finally shut. Once we’ve dutifully recited to the last syllable every thing we know, we are chastened or even taken aback by the paltry incommensurability of what we’ve just said with the haunted wealth that extends within and without us in all directions. At that moment, the suggestive ambivalence of a story will have to seem truer than the abbreviation of a hollow answer.
A REVIEW OF MICHAEL CISCO'S THE WRETCH OF THE SUN
I must start this review by saying that Michael Cisco's The Wretch of the Sun is a perfect example of high-quality horror fiction. I've read many horror and weird fiction novels and stories, but I don't recall reading another novel quite like this one ever before. Hippocampus Press has done a big favour for readers of horror fiction by publishing The Wretch of the Sun, because it's a captivatingly strange and challenging reading experience.
Michael Cisco is one of the masters of contemporary horror fiction. The Wretch of the Sun demonstrates why he is an excellent and respected novelist, because he uses traditional hauntings and haunted house elements as the basis of the story, but delivers his own unique vision about them. Just like Thomas Ligotti and John Langan, he has his own distinct writing style that sets him apart from other authors.
If there are readers out there who are not familiar with Michael Cisco, here are a few words about him. He is the author of such works as The Divinity Student, The San Veneficio Canon and The Great Lover. The Divinity Student was the winner of the International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel of 1999, and The Great Lover was nominated for the 2011 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel of the Year and declared the Best Weird Novel of 2011 by the Weird Fiction Review. His stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies.
In my opinion, The Wretch of the Sun is a novel of which you should know as little as possible when you begin to read it, because it should be experienced personally without prior knowledge about the events. That's why I'm not going to delve into writing much about the story and shall focus my attention on other areas of importance.
Celada and Trudy are interesting characters, because the author writes well about their doings and interests. Trudy Bailey is a graduate student in art history and studies at Chthethostoa college in Cimelia Cisterna. Celada is a bit eccentric man who has clairvoyance abilities.
The author writes fluently about what happens to some people. For example, he writes about what happens when policemen are chasing a man and a boy runs away home. These events are fascinatingly strange.
When I read this novel, I was fascinated by how observantly the author wrote about various types of ghosts and their characteristics. During the story, he mentions apparitions ranging from specters of warning to malignant ghosts. These mentions were something that I don't recall seeing in any other modern horror novels.
Michael Cisco's literary prose is excellent. I like his writing style, because his way of writing about the events, the places and the characters is wonderfully descriptive. The mentions of light and lighting are very effective in this novel.
As example of the author's prose, I can mention that such sentences as these are exquisitely beautiful:
"A completely nondescript puppet, made of gray sacking with button eyes and a straight line mouth, is oysterizing particles of sunlight to make heliopearls.",
"Twilight... sunlight changes by increments to moonlight."
"With a little pop, the sun momentarily grows larger, and transparent eyes complete with lashes and flabby eyelids snow down, falling in formation to vanish intangibly into whatever they find, leaving a rancid loop of soured old tears."
Because I love descriptive literary prose, I was immediately impressed by the author's use of different expressions and words. In my opinion, he has an almost uncanny ability to immerse the reader into his text.
The descriptions about the house called Sanglade, which was built around the turn of the century, are amazingly evocative. The author evokes vivid images in the reader's mind by writing informatively about the house, its history and its decor.
This novel has a bit dream-like and stream of consciousness kind of a feel to it that separates it from many contemporary horror novels. When you begin to read the story, you'll find yourself mesmerised by it and you'll enjoy its gentle yet effective flow.
One of the things that also caught my attention was that the author had given slightly extraordinary names for certain characters and places. In my opinion, the use of extraordinary names enhances the strange and dream-like atmosphere.
I think it's good to mention that The Wretch of the Sun is not for hasty readers, but for those who enjoy gradually unfolding stories. You must let its darkness seep into your soul in order to fully enjoy its gloriously foreboding atmosphere. It's a novel that rewards its readers for their patience.
The cover art by Harry O. Morris looks menacingly beautiful. It fits this novel perfectly.
Michael Cisco's The Wretch of the Sun brings much needed freshness to novels featuring ghosts and haunted houses, because the author invigorates the genre by endowing it with a healthy dose of strangeness and literary excellence. This novel is a masterpiece of contemporary horror literature that should not be missed by horror readers.