That Which Grows Wild: Eric J Guignard
Reviewed by Ben Walker
That Which Grows Wild by Eric J Guignard collects 16 weird, dark stories with enough variety to make a chocolate box turf itself off a cliff in despair, knowing it could never provide such a tasty selection of treats.
Some collections take a while to hit their stride, so it was great to see this one start strong with a tale of mass spontaneous combustion. I’m a long time fan of real life mysteries, and my fascination with this particular mystery definitely helped my enjoyment. This is more than just a few poor sods turning into cinders in their favourite armchair though. The flames here serve as a powerful metaphor for teenage – and adult – frustrations. It swings masterfully between theories as the characters struggle to make sense of their fiery fates, with a good slice of dark humour too.
With the tone set well, the quality stays high, with cowboys escaping ravenous insects through a flooded ravine, a tale of transformation and death that would make Kafka pig sick jealous, and a desert nightmare that’ll have you reaching for water, or possibly something stronger to calm your nerves.
When you’re four stories deep into a collection and each one gives you the fuzzy feeling of satisfaction, I’d say that’s a pretty strong recommendation, but wait! Guignard isn’t done with you that quickly. There’s a Clive Barker-eqsue tale of mobsters versus a terrifying entity, a werewolf tale so claustrophobic I almost considered stepping out of the house for a while afterwards, and a gleefully grotesque spin on Beauty and the Beast.
The absolute highlight for me was a tale of high-powered businessmen and a strange, powerful delicacy. It’s one part Wall Street, one part Gravity Falls, all topped off with a grim, satisfying ending. It’s the kind of story that seems like it was a blast to write, and it makes reading it a joy, as with so many of the other wild and weird concepts here.
Then Guignard goes and breaks your heart with Dreams of a Little Suicide. If you read the back blurb you’ll know a lot of what this is about, but please, go in cold. I put two and two together after a page or so and actually said “oh no” when I realised where the story was headed. Even if you’re prepared for the inevitable, the story takes a wild turn towards the end and becomes something else entirely. Can I change my mind and say this one was my favourite? Well, I’m doing it anyway.
There were a couple of stories in here I didn’t vibe with quite so strongly, but the overall quality of is so high that it doesn’t change my opinion of the book. Which is – buy it! Quality, variety, terror, sadness, thrills, comedy, creatures…this really does have it all. More, please.
Star Rating (out of 5): 4*
You can read a fascinating interview with Eric here
That Which Grows Wild collects sixteen dark and masterful short fiction stories by award-winning author Eric J. Guignard. Equal parts of whimsy and weird, horror and heartbreak, this debut collection traverses the darker side of the fantastic through vibrant and harrowing tales that encounter monsters and regrets, hope and atonement, and the oddly changing reflection that turns back at you in the mirror.
Discover why, after only several years, Eric J. Guignard has developed an ardent following and earned praise by masters of the craft such as Ramsey Campbell (“Guignard gives voice to paranoid vision that’s all too believable.”) and Rick Hautala (“No other young horror author is better, I think, than Eric J. Guignard.”) by stories such as these:
• In “A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It Applies to Love,” a teen learns about himself while contemplating the theory of Natural Selection as the world around slowly dies from rising temperature and increasing cases of spontaneous combustion.
• In “Dreams of a Little Suicide,” a down-on-his-luck dwarven man unexpectedly finds his dreams and love in Hollywood as a munchkin for filming of The Wizard of Oz, but soon those dreams begin to darken.
• In “The Inveterate Establishment of Daddano & Co.,” an aged undertaker tells the true story behind Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, and of the grime that accumulates beneath our floors.
• In “A Journey of Great Waves,” a Japanese girl encounters, years later, the ocean-borne debris of her tsunami-ravaged homeland, and the ghosts that come with it.
• In “The House of the Rising Sun, Forever,” a tragic voice gives dire warning against the cycle of opium addiction from which, even after death, there is no escape.
• In “Last Days of the Gunslinger, John Amos,” a gunfighter keeps a decimated town’s surviving children safe on a mountaintop from the incursion of ferocious creatures… until a flash flood strikes, and their one chance may be to sail away on it.
Those and ten other unforgettable tales are within these pages of That Which Grows Wild by Eric J. Guignard. Explore within, and discover a wild range upon which grows the dark, the strange, and the profound.
Ben Walker is a British reviewer/writer who had his tiny mind ruined by an illicit viewing of John Carpenter’s The Thing when he was a young lad, and his mind is still pretty tiny and ruined now. His past review credits include reviews & interviews on the sadly defunct UK Horror Scene website. Nowadays you can find him on YouTube talking about the weird books & movies that tickle his fancy.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BensNotWriting
Please visit Ben’s blog here
You can visit Ben’s Youtube channel here