Keening Country: Seán O’Connor
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Over the last few years, one author who continues to release new, exciting tales is Seán O’Connor. First, it was the lycanthropic terror of ‘The Mongrel,’ then the stellar reality show/survival story of ‘Weeping Season,’ and finally, the cosmic chaos of ‘The Blackening.’
Now, O’Connor returns with his first short story collection. I was immediately intrigued. And if you’ve been in the same boat as me – burned out on collections due to the sheer volume of stories – this beauty is made up of only four stories.
What I liked: O’Connor always crafts stories that will make you squirm and be creeped out, but with ‘Keening Country,’ these four tales all appear to be unreleased ‘X-Files’ episodes. Each one is fantastic and it took me a bit to figure out which one I’d consider my favorite.
The first story is ‘Aerials,’ A husband and wife have moved out of the city, choosing a life off the grid and away from society. When they wake up one morning to find out that massive aerial towers are being put up around them and all over the countryside, things unravel and wow does this one get dark and brutal.
‘Down Below‘ was up next and at first, we are led to believe that this is a creature story about a shed in the backyard that may or may not house a giant, man-eating spider. But, this being horror and all, the children wait until their parents leave and go investigate, only to find out things are way worse than imagined. This one will easily be the favorite for a number of readers. It has so many great moments in it, but seriously, at its core, this is pure brutality at its best.
‘Seven Years Gone,’ is my personal favorite and highlight of the collection. I can’t speak too much as to the why of that, as I can’t spoil this, but the story follows a train operator on the seventh anniversary of his wife’s mysterious disappearance. One day, she just up and left. Now, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol, which gave this a great layer of realism and masked some of the subtle clues O’Connor gave us. The ending is pitch-perfect and elevated this to my favorite story.
The final story is ‘The Obsessed.’ This is a gruesome story that’ll be one those with weak stomachs won’t be able to finish. I can’t say much about this one either, but it follows a young woman who becomes obsessed with her older neighbor and what he gets up to when she can see him. This one is easily the darkest, most unnerving story in the collection.
What I didn’t like: It’s tough to say that I ‘didn’t like’ this, but in three of the four, I knew where the stories were heading. Though I think that may say something about me, thinking like that ha! Saying that. having an inkling of where the stories would go, didn’t diminish them in the least.
Why you should buy this: O’Connor is always an author to be excited about and every story he writes (whether short or long) is going to go places unexpected. His first collection shows the range of darkness he can create and there isn’t a weak story in the bunch.
This was a ton of fun to read and one filled with four stories that’ll leave you begging for more, but each of those four will remain locked in your brain far after you’ve read it.
A collection of experimental fiction ranging from creepy horror to powerful explorations of the human mind…
…In Aerials, strange antennas dot the landscape from out of nowhere and a tech worker’s sister has been found dead, trusting her into a race against time to discover the truth before lies become fact…
…Down Below is a story about a boy who stumbles upon a dark family secret beneath the garden shed. A secret his father would do anything to keep buried…
…Seven Years Gone is a creepy tale of loss and suffering in which a train driver struggles to overcome haunting visions of his dearly departed…
…In The Obsessed, a young girl is infatuated with the older man next door. However, her dream crush has a lust that she will never be able to quench – unless she acquires a similar appetite…
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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