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Literary Joy: Daughter of Hounds - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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October 18th, 2007


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11:08 am - Literary Joy: Daughter of Hounds
A few days ago, I got out Daughter of Hounds by Caitlin Kiernan. It is a work of Lovecaftian horror, as well as the finest novel I've read in several years. Oddly, I dislike almost all horror – I'm not a fan of almost all modern horror films, and I read very little horror, but this book utterly grabbed me, once I got it away from teaotter, who devoured it shortly before I did.

My relationship to horror fiction is odd and mixed. As someone who is not particularly normative, I loathe horror that is normative, where the protagonists are ordinary people who seek to eliminate all that is strange and aberrant and "restore" the social and natural order – I'm mostly on the side of the monsters. Similarly, any horror, like any fantasy, where magic and the supernatural is inherently bad or where the protagonist or protagonists are well-armed ordinary humans fighting back unnatural beings and terrible powers is very much not for me. I also dislike and strictly avoid novels that are too grim or depressing, and as with all other fiction inconsistent, sloppy, or haphazard world-building instantly causes me to lose interest, which means that I avoid most horror, as well as most fantasy.

Daughter of Hounds was not most horror. In addition to having lush prose that is both gripping and exceptionally evocative, it is one of the finest examples I've seen of taking Lovecraft's ideas and going beyond a simple pastiche and creating something grander and more wonderful out of the setting elements he created and it goes beyond that and creates a vaster and richer world that is all it's own. Instead of simply being an (excellent) addition to the vast amount of Lovecraftian fiction out there, this book's setting felt like something both new and greater than the Cthulhu Mythos that merely shared some details in common with it.

In addition, there's a certain type of fiction that is (for me at least) completely transcendent. Some mixture of setting, characters, and writing style. The last book that made me react like this was Nancy Collins' Angel on Fire, and that had as much to do with personal idiosyncrasy as good writing - Daughter of Hounds is a considerably finer book and is the only sort of horror, I truly enjoy, and which is also paradoxically one of my favorite sorts of fiction (along with similarly transformative SF&F) – transformative horror. Over the course of the novel, the protagonist grows, transforms, and learns that there is considerably more to both the world and themselves than they previously knew. Transformative horror, where the world the protagonist learns of is so exceedingly rich and strange is a very rare treat indeed. Thankfully, this book is loosely connected (in that the protagonist is the young daughter of characters from two previous novels) to two of her other novels. I recently ordered both from Amazon, and they will hopefully arrive very soon, providing me with even more literary joy.
Current Mood: pleasedpleased

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:nancylebov
Date:October 18th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
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You might like Mieville's _King Rat_.
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From:heron61
Date:October 18th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
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I found it fun, but not something that inclined me to look for more of his work.
From:nancylebov
Date:October 18th, 2007 09:44 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking that it counts as transformative horror.

His _Un Lun Dun_ is very different from the rest of his work--a surrealistic YA fantasy with only slight horrific elements, and it does some nice rearrangement of plot cliches.
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From:heron61
Date:October 18th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
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His _Un Lun Dun_ is very different from the rest of his work--a surrealistic YA fantasy with only slight horrific elements, and it does some nice rearrangement of plot cliches.

After looking at reviews and suchlike on Amazon, I must admit that it's the first piece of his work that has sounded like it will really interest me. Thanks muchly.
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From:rialian
Date:October 18th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
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===I rather liked Threshold...she is a fine writer.
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From:heron61
Date:October 18th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
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Thanks muchly!
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From:heron61
Date:October 18th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
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Not a problem, I know precisely what you mean.
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From:moominmuppet
Date:October 18th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
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I loathe horror that is normative, where the protagonists are ordinary people who seek to eliminate all that is strange and aberrant and "restore" the social and natural order – I'm most on the side of the monsters.

*nod* Generally true for me, too. It's why, for all its cheesiness, Habitat is one of my favorite horror/monster movies.
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From:heron61
Date:October 18th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
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That does sound like fun.

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