Marc Joan's The Speckled God will be published by Unsung Stories in February 2017.

Information about Marc Joan:

Marc Joan spent the early part of his life in Asia and Europe, and the early part of his career in biomedical research. His short stories have been published in Hypnos, Madcap Review, Danse Macabre, The Apeiron Review, STORGY, Bohemyth, Literary Orphans, Smokelong Quarterly, Bookends Review, Sein und Werden and Structo. He lives in England with his family.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about The Speckled God:

Forty years ago, auditor Joki de Souza disappeared in the sweltering jungles of southern India, during the Hindu festival of Nag Panchami. Whilst pursuing accounting irregularities in the Mansholi estate of the Sarpal Tea Corporation, it is as though he heard a whisper in the dark - enough to raise his suspicions, but not his guard...

In a profession that thrives on precision and complete records, there are curious gaps and irregularities that can’t be resolved. Joki de Souza disappeared, that much is known, but exactly when and how is hidden. Now decades have passed, and time is no friend of the truth.

Joki’s story is pieced together through interviews, scraps of diary-entries, faded sketches in old notebooks and the half-remembered whispers of old men. The Speckled God is a story of deified snakes and dark idols, of the cult of Mother Jakkamma and the dangers of misunderstanding the world’s isolated places.

A REVIEW OF MARC JOAN'S THE SPECKLED GOD

Marc Joan's novelette, The Speckled God, is a fascinatingly written weird fiction story that takes place in India. I enjoyed reading it, because it has been written in the tradition of classic weird tales that focus on strange and mysterious happenings.

The Speckled God is a fascinating blend of literary storytelling, mystery elements and classic weird fiction elements. It's a story about the strange fate of a young man called Joki de Souza who travels to one of Mansholi estates to investigate accounting irregularities, but suddenly disappears while doing his job. His disappearance and apparent death during the Hindu festival of Nag Panchami remains a mystery. This story sheds some light on what kind of fate befell him as he investigated things.

Joki de Souza is an interesting and a bit enigmatic character, because his life and background is almost as mysterious as his disapperance. He left no close relatives and no one can recount his childhood misdemeanours. He was an only child and grew up in a village where English was spoken as much as Kantani. He had a gift for drawing and sketched many things. At the age of twenty he was all alone and found employment in the Accounts Department of the Sarpal Tea Corporation. His work included monitoring and control of the budgetary performance of the Mansholi tea estates. Before his death, he requisitioned archived photocopies of the complete Mansholi accounts.

The author's prose is good. I like his writing style, because he has created a good story and doesn't underline anything. He fluently writes about the main character and his fatal journey into the remote tea plantation. His descriptions about the happenings evoke a sense of creepiness and wonder in the reader.

The speckled clay idol, deification of snakes, the cult of Mother Jakkamma and Kaliya's cycle of life and death create an alluringly strange and creepy atmosphere. It was fascinating to read about how snakes were believed to be associated with death, rebirth and fertility, and how they were treated almost as guardians.

Marc Joan uses superstition, beliefs and local customs to his advantage in this story. When I read this story, I got a feeling that I was given an authentic glimpse into another culture with its own unwritten rules.

This story has an interesting structure, because it consists of various pieces that form a splendid narrative. The narrative both reveals and suggests at what may have happened to Joki de Souza, but doesn't offer clear answers to readers. This kind of a structure and writing style is to my liking, because it requires particular attention from the readers to notice all the details and lets them form their own opinions about the happenings.

It's possible that this kind of a structure may feel strange to readers who are not used to it and haven't read many weird fiction stories or literary speculative fiction stories. I say to these readers that please persevere with the story, because you'll be rewarded with an intriguing ending.

I found it intriguing that the author explored the dangers of misunderstanding local culture and beliefs in this story. It's a shame that this theme is far too seldom addressed in modern speculative fiction stories, because it brings depth and fascination to the stories.

In my opinion, The Speckled God could perhaps best be described as a fascinatingly weird take on Kiplingesque fiction. It reads almost like a blend of Rudyard Kipling, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Aickman with a touch of old-fashioned mystery fiction.

I enjoyed this novelette so much that Marc Joan found his way on my reading list. I intend to take a closer look at his stories, because I'm not familiar with them.

Marc Joan's The Speckled God is a fascinating and well written weird fiction story. It's something a bit different and mesmerising for readers who love stories about remote places where evil and strange things may happen to those who are not wary of local customs and beliefs and disregard them.

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