Review: These Long Teeth of the Night by Alexander Zelenyj

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Alexander Zelenyj's These Long Teeth of the Night was published by the Fourth Horseman Press in 2022.

Alexander Zelenyj
Alexander Zelenyj

Alexander Zelenyj is the author of the books Songs For The Lost, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M., Ballads To The Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics Of The Deathray Bradburys, and Black Sunshine. His fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies throughout the world.

Zelenyj lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Elizabeth.

Click here to visit author official website.

These Long Teeth of the Night: The Best Short Stories 1999-2019 by Alexander Zelenyj
These Long Teeth of the Night: The Best Short Stories 1999-2019
by Alexander Zelenyj

For over twenty years, Alexander Zelenyj has been writing unforgettable fiction. His stories span the literary continuum, blending genres in new and unexpected ways to create what many critics have described as "unclassifiable" literature. Never afraid to venture to those places that few other authors would dare to explore, he weaves bold narratives that are by turns harrowing, insightful, and revelatory. They are stories that confront the most abhorrent of monsters, embrace the truth and the wonder of the human condition, and pose questions without answer. These Long Teeth of the Night celebrates the first two decades of Zelenyj's published short fiction. This special anniversary retrospective collects twenty-eight of his most remarkable stories, including new material and notes from the author that offer unique insight into the creative process. Prepare yourself. The stories of Alexander Zelenyj are stories of the night. And it has teeth.

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REVIEW: THESE LONG TEETH OF THE NIGHT BY ALEXANDER ZELENYJ

Alexander Zelenyj's These Long Teeth of the Night: The Best Short Stories 1999-2019 celebrates twenty years of mesmerising storytelling by one of the most gifted authors of literary speculative fiction. It's an excellent collection that deserves to be read by everybody who loves atmospheric and elegant stories that defy easy classification.

Alexander Zelenyj is an author whose stories I have come to love very much, because they appeal to my dark literary taste and tantalise my imagination with their harrowing atmosphere and elegant yet sharp prose. He is one of the few authors in the field of literary speculative fiction who have an inborn ability to write fresh, unclassificable and uncanny stories, the contents of which vary a lot and cover a wide range of various sub-genres of speculative fiction (I think it's good to mention here that although the author writes literary speculative fiction, many of his stories can be classified as slipstream fiction and also as modern weird/strange fiction). One of the main reasons why I adore and love his fiction is that he never shies away from challenging themes and elements of weirdness, but boldly ventures along a dark literary path of his own that leads the reader into the inner sanctum of strangeness where anything is possible and nothing seems to be forbidden.

These Long Teeth of the Night is a wonderful glimpse into the author's remarkable fiction that serves as an introduction to his stories, but also offers a marvellous opportunity for his fans to re-visit his best and most popular stories. Personally, I had already read most of the stories in this collection, but I enjoyed re-reading them, because each of the stories is beautifully and atmospherically written. His effortless and skillful way of writing about the human condition and strange occurences is simply amazing, not to mention impressive, because elements of sinister darkness and strange beauty interlink flawlessly in his stories.

If you have not had an opportunity read Alexander Zelenyj yet, I advise you to grab yourself a copy of this book as soon as possible, because you won't regret acquainting yourself with it. If you've ever read anything by Douglas Thompson, Nina Allan, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, Aliya Whiteley or David Rix and loved what you read, you owe it to yourself to read this amazing collection, because - just like these authors - Alexander Zelenyj is an exceptionally gifted storyteller with a distinct literary voice of his own. Trust me when I say that this collection will fully satisfy you in terms of originality, literary storytelling and quality of prose. If you're already a fan of the author, this retrospective should have a permanent place in your book collection at a prime location on your bookshelf.

This collection contains the following stories:

- Maria, Here Come the Death Angels!
- The Potato Thief Beneath Indifferent Stars
- The Priests
- A Gift from the World †
- A Roman Plague
- Blacker Against the Deep Dark
- Highway of Lost Women
- On Tour with the Deathray Bradburys
- Journey to the End of a Burning Girl
- In the City Where Dreams Wander the Sidewalks
- Gladiators in the Sepulchre of Abominations
- Dying Days of Treasure Spiders Everywhere
- We Are All Lightless Inside
- Elopers to Sirius
- The Prison Hulk
- Love in Uncertain Times
- Your Bone Spider Will Find You
- An Angela Named Vengeance
- Through Fogs Deep and Fires Long
- A Valley for Dorothy
- Another Light Called 1-47
- The Homes We Deserve
- The Bloodmilk People
- Let the Firefly Men Remind You
- This Lustful Earth
- The Demon Takeover of Windsor, Ontario ‡
- Poppy, the Girl of My Dreams, and the Alien Invasion I Can Detect Like Radar Through My Braces
- Songs for the Lost

† brand new story exclusive to this volume
‡ previously available only in magazine publication, in Revelation 2:1, Fourth Horseman Press, 2004

Each of the above mentioned stories is worth reading and praising. There are no filler stories in this retrospective, but only pure quality to those who love beautiful, insightful and thought-provoking literary fiction.

In these stories, the author never underestimates the intelligence of his readership, because he poses many questions and makes the reader think about the events, but does not offer easy answers. I find this kind of storytelling deeply rewarding, because I enjoy reading thought-provoking stories.

Each of the stories has an introduction written by the author. The author's notes are fascinating and bring depth to the stories, because they reveal a lot minor details about the stories and the creative process involved in writing them.

Here's a bit of information about the stories and my thoughts about them:

Maria, Here Come the Death Angels!:
- A beautifully written and memorable story set in Vietnam during the wartime.
- This story has been one of my favourite Zelenyj stories for a while now, because it's a prime example of dark and disturbing storytelling with a dose of unyielding sharpness.
- The author's way of writing about the soldiers and their lives is both realistic and unsettling, because he conveys the harshness of their lives and fates to the reader in a striking way. The ending of this story is perfect in its disturbing strangeness.

The Potato Thief Beneath Indifferent Stars:
- An atmospheric and elegantly written story about an old man who finds a strange female creature eating potatoes in his field.
- This is one of the most wistful and melancholic yet strangely beautiful and hopeful stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because the author writes captivatingly about what kind of an effect the creature has on the lonely man.
- There's an astounding amount of heartfelt emotion in this story, especially feelings of love and loss.
- This story has a compellingly fairy tale kind of a feel to it that intrigues me. It feels like a dark fairy tale for thinking adults.

The Priests:
- This mesmerising story focuses on a strange abomination called the Priests, who visits Pastor Garfield and begins to tell him its story.
- The author's descriptions about the Priests are memorable, because he has created a creature whose appearance is highly unsual.
- After re-reading this story a few times, it has become one of my favourite stories, because it is both dark, sad and deeply thought-provoking.
- The Priests' story is filled with such harshness, loneliness, suffering and sadness that it will have a profound effect on the reader. It is impossible not to be touched by its story.

A Gift from the World †:
- This story is a brand new story that is exclusive to this collection.
- In this story, Carter finds a weird looking fish at a strange location and doesn't know what kind of fish it is.
- As the author mentions in his introduction, this is a story about what the world is capable of giving to people. It's an accurate description, because it matches the contents of the story.
- I find this story both compelling and strangely unsettling. It will surely linger on the reader's mind as it touches upon environmental elements and has an effective ending.

A Roman Plague:
- In this historical horror story, Roman Legionnaires have to face a deadly stranger during a dark night when they are guarding their fort.
- I like this story a lot, because it's something different. Its robust combination of history and horror works well.
- It was compelling for me to read about the evil being that the Romans saw and tried to deal with, because the being was pure evil, but also strangely erotic in its menacing appearance.

Blacker Against the Deep Dark:
- This is a story about Mr. Yashimoto who has been introduced by his grandfather to the shadow-people of Hiroshima when he was a young boy.
- In this story, the author fluently creates a strangely beautiful and haunting atmosphere that will have an impact on the reader. This story has the power to awaken images of Hiroshima in the reader's mind, for the descriptions of the events are surprisingly atmospheric and impressive.
- Ah, this is one of the best and most effective stories I've read in ages. Ever since I first read this story, I've been captivated by it and its atmosphere, because it's a bit different kind of a ghost story with plenty of underlying depth and nuanced storytelling.

Highway of Lost Women:
- This is a gripping story about the road trip of four women, who are life-long friends. During their road trip, they encounter something strange.
- I am impressed by the author's way of writing about the women's lives, their hardships and their friendship. I have to mention that I am especially taken by how fluently the author brings Darcy, Alex, Billie and Sam to life with his prose and how well he writes about what kind of things have happened to them and what they have experienced over the years.
- I consider this story to be an excellent example of the author's writing skills, because it's a bit different kind of a story, but every bit as good and powerful as his other stories.

On Tour with the Deathray Bradburys:
- This is an intriguing and well written story about a band called the Deathray Bradburys and their fans who suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth.
- The enigma surrounding the Deathray Bradburys and their disappearance is intriguing, because their cryptic lyrics describe a mass exodus into a paradise located among the stars in the Sirius binary system. It's great that certain things are left mysterious in this story and not everything is revealed to the reader.
- This story has become one of my favourite stories, because there's something about it that stimulates my imagination and makes me think about its happenings. I find it original and highly compelling.
- If you like strange fiction, I can guarantee that you'll love this story.

Journey to the End of a Burning Girl:
- This is an excellent and memorable novelette about two detectives, Clark and Kessel, who are trying to solve the mystery a deadly and otherworldly drug that supposedly has the power to transport its users to a better place. Besides being a tale about the detectives, it's also a story about Philip who is looking for Vern. (This is all I'll mention about the happenings, because I want to avoid writing spoilers.)
- I find this novelette a captivating combination of elements ranging from science fiction to near-future noir with a thrilling dash of horror and surrealism. I'm especially fascinated by the author's vision of a not-too-distant future world that is bleak and intriguingly unsettling, because the world has changed in significant ways and certain things are different. Reading about the world will surely have an emotional impact on many readers, because you can't help but marvel at its stunning bleakness.
- In his introduction, the author mentions that this novelette has grown into a full-length novel. I sincerely hope that it will be published one day, because I definitely want to read it. There are so many elements and layers of depth in this novelette that expanding it into a novel will most likely result in a highly compelling reading experience.

In the City Where Dreams Wander the Sidewalks:
- This is an impressive and deeply unsettling story about a man who abducts teenagers from streets. When the teenagers are returned days later, they have changed and the humanity seems to have vanished from them.
- This dark story is one of the strongest stories I've ever read, because it makes you think about the world around you and what can happen to children and teenagers.

Gladiators in the Sepulchre of Abominations:
- In this story, Billy returns to his family home which has a terrifying secret.
- I find the dark and ominous atmosphere spot-on in this story, because the author writes perfectly about Billy's old home and what has happened there.
- I think that this story will appeal to everyone who loves dark and atmospheric weird fiction.

Dying Days of Treasure Spiders Everywhere:
- A beautifully written story about a boy, who collects spiders, and his grandfather.
- The writing in this story is so good that you can almost imagine yourself being there with the boy and his grandfather as they talk about spiders and spend time together.
- This is one of the most touching stories the author has ever written.

We Are All Lightless Inside:
- In this science fiction story, the roots of which lie in the author's personal experiences, soldiers of a secret Group fight against diseases and viruses which can take physical forms and try to eradicate them. Fight against the monstrous manifestations is hard and relentless work and it affects those who participate in it.
- The premise of this story is intriguing and the ending is excellent.
- Although I mostly classify this story as science fiction, I think it's worth mentioning that it has fascinating elements of horror fiction, weird fiction and pulp fiction. The author blends these elements with expertise and delivers a fascinating story.
- I want to mention that what the author writes about his childhood and school in the introduction resonates with me on a deep level, because I have similar experiences from my own childhood.

Elopers to Sirius:
- In this story, the members of a suicide cult await to go to a better place.
- The author writes well about the brother and sister who feel that they are one step away from Paradise.
- I have liked this story ever since I first read it, because it's something different. I'm impressed by the author's ability to write about difficult themes in a beautiful way.

The Prison Hulk:
- This is an excellent and gripping story about prison ships on Thames during the War of Independence.
- If you are familiar with history and historical events related to the prison hulk penal system and the War of Independence, you will greatly enjoy this story.
- Because I am interested in history, I found myself fascinated by the author's atmospheric vision of the prison ships.

Love in Uncertain Times:
- This is a highly enjoyable and rewarding story that features an astonishing archaeological find.
- What makes this story special is that it kind of ends in a hopeful and uplifting way, for the discovery has had an effect on mankind.

Your Bone Spider Will Find You:
- In this memorable story, a man stops a raped girl doing a bad thing and shows her something weird.
- This is one of those stories that you simply can't forget once you've read it, because the author writes about a difficult theme in an unflinching way and adds a dose of weirdness to the whole.
- The author expertly conveys the damaged girl's emotional state and suffering to the reader in this story as he describes what she is about to commit before she is stopped. The girl has had a traumatic experience and can't seem to fathom the wrongness of her deeds until he meets the man.
- In my opinion, this is one of the author's strongest and most memorable stories.

An Angela Named Vengeance:
- A strikingly bold story about Angela and what she does with a man.
- I think it's good to mention that this story contains bold and uninhibited descriptions about sex. The author does not shy away from sexual material, but writes surprisingly boldly about it.
- This is a very powerful and unforgettable story.

Through Fogs Deep and Fires Long:
- This is a truly memorable and disturbing story about two damaged persons who find love and salvation in a sadomasochistic relationship. As they hurt each other, they are striving to find ascension to better places.
- The sexual and sadomasochistic acts described by the author are uncompromising in their rawness and depravity.
- There's something about this story that strongly reminds me of early stories written by Clive Barker. If you're familiar with Barker's Books of Blood stories and find them intriguing, you'll be captivated by this story.

A Valley for Dorothy:
- A story about Henry Barber who is asked by his employer to dig a deep hole for to bury a demon.
- This strangely captivating story is a magnificent blend of dark fantasy and western elements, and it can be classified as a weird western story.

Another Light Called 1-47:
- A fascinating and well written story about Angela, her life thoughout the years and her connection to the rocket 1-47.
- I enjoy this story, because it's something different and has a distinct feel of adoration and wonder to it.
- When I first read this story, it felt like a kind of a love letter to rockets and space exploration and I was partly right, because the author mentions in the introduction that it's a love letter to NASA.

The Homes We Deserve:
- This story has previously been published in a chapbook called A Test Tube Family, which accompanied pre-orders of Blacker Against the Deep Dark, which is now out of print. It's great that it has been published here, because it's an excellent story.
- In this story, the events takes place during the time of World War II. This is a story about a group of soldiers who witness a terrifying sight of a mushroom-shaped cloud and encounter something strange that makes them question things.

The Bloodmilk People:
- This is a fascinatingly weird tale about a young man who has been capable of expeling blood from his body since childhood. If he doesn't expel blood, he starts to feel nauseous, but if he expels too much, he starts to feel faint.
- This is a highly original story that will please everybody who loves body horror, modern weird fiction and bizarro fiction. The bizarro elements of this story are highly entertaining and sufficiently wild with a dose of black humour.

Let the Firefly Men Remind You:
- This story is a detailed and beautifully written glimpse into the lives of two young women who share a bond with each other.
- The author writes engagingly about the women and what happens to them one night when glowing and flaming men suddenly appear.
- In this story, the author creates a mesmerising vision of a haunted Canadian summer and evokes a sense of fear and wonder in the reader.
- In my opinion, this story is a masterpiece of modern literary weird fiction.

This Lustful Earth:
- In this story, the author delivers his readers an unforgettably perverse, depraved and brutal story set in wartime.
- I'm not going to write any spoilers here, but I can mention that the second half of this story is simply brilliant, because it reveals what is going on.
- I find this story excellent and memorable in all of its perversity and depravity. It's definitely not for everybody, but it's worth reading, because similar kind of stories are difficult to find.

The Demon Takeover of Windsor, Ontario ‡:
- In this story, a man and a girl hide in a locked convenience store while something strange is happening outdoors.
- This is an excellent depiction of two persons facing a terrifying situation without knowledge about what is going on outside the store.
- I think that this story will be of special interest to readers who love the survival horror genre. It will also captivate readers who enjoy apocalyptic fiction.

Poppy, the Girl of My Dreams, and the Alien Invasion I Can Detect Like Radar Through My Braces:
- In this story, two girls read a journal written by the boy next door and think that he's a bit crazy, because he writes about aliens who are planning on invading Earth. One of the girls likes the boy.
- This is a bit different kind of love story, because it is set against a backdrop of imminent apocalypse. The apocalyptic elements make this story special and add a nice flavour to the whole.
- This story features a wonderful blend of sweetness and darkness.

Songs for the Lost:
- A fantastic and compelling futuristic weird western story.
- When it comes to weird western stories, I expect the highest possible quality. I'm happy to mention that this story fully meets my expectations, because it features excellent prose, skillful writing and plenty of imagination. Along with "A Valley for Dorothy", this story is one of the few weird western stories that I can highly recommend to speculative fiction readers.
- This story is one of my favourite Zelenyj stories, because it's intriguingly different and has fascinating science fiction elements.
- This is a perfect final story for this collection.

One of the most important reasons why I love these stories is the author's ability to explore the darkest corners and recesses of the characters' lives in a touching yet brutal way without condescending platitudes and easy resolutions. Although the characters' lives may be speckled with sadness, sorrow and loss, there are occasional glimmers of hope and redemption amidst the pain and despair. However, not all of the characters get to experience hope, because their fates will be dark and chilling. The author fluently writes about what kinds of deeds the characters are capable of doing and to what length they are willing to go in hopes of finding salvation or something to ease their suffering.

What I find especially intriguing about the characterisation is the author's way of writing about the characters' feelings and cravings in an observant and deep way. Despite the stories being short, the author manages to bring his damaged, lonely and donwtrodden characters to life with exquisite tenderness and brutality. His subtle way of combining raw human emotions, sexuality, sensuality and unflinching reality with fantastical elements and slipstreamish storytelling is nothing short of miraculous, because it works perfectly.

If there are readers out there who are fascinated by elements related to cosmic horror and cosmic fiction, I can reveal that these elements can be found in this collection. Not all of the stories have them, but some of the stories do feature them. The author's approach to these elements feels utterly fresh and enchanting, because he expertly blends modern weird fiction with cosmic elements. I greatly enjoy his way of writing about these elements, because he understands what this kind of weirdness is all about.

Personally, I consider this collection to be a prime example of how to write literary speculative fiction for thinking adults. It demonstrates that speculative fiction is a perfect tool to address challenging, dark and difficult themes in an unflinching way, because it allows the author more freedom to write about almost anything than normal mainstream literary fiction. There are no holds barred in this kind of fiction. The author uses this to his advantage in many of his stories, because he seems to fully embrace the weird elements when he writes about various happenings and strange occurrences.

The people at the Fourth Horseman Press have done an excellent job with this collection. It's great that Alexander Zelenyj's best stories have been collected here, because he is an author worth reading.

By the way, the cover artwork, which is based on "Muscinae" (1904) by Ernst Haeckel, is beautiful and fits this collection perfectly.

My final words are: Alexander Zelenyj's These Long Teeth of the Night is a captivating, harrowing and thought-provoking collection that should be read by everyone who loves literary speculative fiction with a dash of freshness and alluring strangeness. It's mandatory reading material for those who love beautiful prose and gripping stories (please, do yourself a big favour and read it as soon as possible).

Very highly recommended!