Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes by Mark Samuels

Mark Samuels blew me away with The White Hands and Other Weird Tales. I found his first collection, Black Altars to be good but not great, more of a showcase of potential. His third collection, Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes is another top notch collection in the vein of The White Hands.

In the introduction, Ramsey Campbell calls Mark Samuels a modern master of urban horror and compares him to the great Thomas Ligotti. Campbell is completely accurate in this description, and Ligotti's influence can be seen throughout the collection.

Glyphotech is an interesting collection. Many motifs recur throughout the stories: trains, mannequins/puppets, asylums, madness and paranoia. Samuels excels at writing alienated, awkward characters who manage to find themselves in inescapable situations where surrealism takes over and everything becomes a downward spiral.

The collection opens with the title story, Glyphotech, which serves as a prime example of urban, corporate horror. An already estranged man disagrees with his company's new direction, and finds himself the target of a mysterious outside corporation which seems to spread like a disease.

Sentinels brings a loner detective into the horrific underground in a story that can't help but bring to mind Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train. This tale is perhaps the most visceral of all the terrors to be found in this collection, and the implications of the city being involved makes it all the scarier.

Patient 704 first appeared in Black Altars, and is the one story from that previous collection that Samuels deemed worthy of saving. The story also has the distinction of being one of my favorite asylum stories. The deterioration of the narrator's mental faculties is handled brilliantly.

Shallaballah brings readers into a nightmarish "medical center" in a surreal exploration of possible life after death in a world of urban decay. After reading this story Punch and Judy shall never be seen in the same light again.

Samuels visits a mysterious small town in Ghorla, where an irritable scholar seeks out the sister of a deceased and mostly unknown horror author. The weirdness of the story leads to a crazy ending, which is equal parts laughable and disturbing.

Cesare Thodol: Lines Written On a Wall has readers visiting yet another asylum, as the narrator unravels the mystery involving a contagious madness that involves mannequins and fungus. A great example of how talented Samuels is at writing original stories in the vein of classic weird horror.

Satire and horror combine in The Cannibal Kings of Horror. A horror fan goes to a convention with the hopes to meet his idol, only to receive a wake-up call. The story is over the top, and despite being humorous has a grisly ending.

Destination Nihil by Edmund Bertand pretends to be a story by reclusive, abrasive author Edmund Bertrand, a character from The Cannibal Kings of Horror, in which this story in particular is read by the main character. This one is short, and is a story about identity taking place on a bizarre train.

The Vanishing Point sees a man at the end of his rope. Samuels evokes hopelessness and slowly turns it into horror as the protagonist's already miserable reality becomes terrifying.

Regina vs. Zoskia is a great story about the sane being guilty, as a lawyer is drawn into an absurd case involving an asylum and it's sleepless residents.

A Gentleman From Mexico was actually the first story by Samuels I read, in Lockhart's Book of Cthulhu II. The story is another fine example of how Samuels can blend humor and horror equally, and works as a great homage to the Gentleman From Providence.

This collection is perfect for any fans of weird horror. It's not as available as The White Hands, as it's run was rather limited, but I would be confident in saying that for fans of The White Hands this book is worth every penny.

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