Tim Waggoner: The Mouth Of The Dark
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
Tim Waggoner has published over 40 novels and 3 short story collections. He writes horror, dark fantasy and tie-in novelizations for X-Files, Nightmare on Elm Street, Supernatural and more. I first ran across Waggoner years ago with his contributions to Dungeons and Dragons Eberron campaign setting novels and his Nekropolis series was a fun read as well.
His first contribution to Flame Tree Press is a strange ride. Given his excursions into dark urban fantasy, I wasn’t surprised that this tale falls somewhere between that realm and horror. What I was surprised by, was how balls-to-the-wall each chapter would delight in its perverse weirdness, slapping you across the face with oddities in rapid succession.
Clocking in at just over 200 pages, there is so much hinted at or quickly explained in so few pages. From the first chapter, you are given a sexualized and grotesque introduction and a few pages in, you have to start suspending your disbelief almost immediately. If you can’t do that, you are going to have a hard time reading this. It gets stranger and stranger as time goes on.
This is the story of Jayce, a divorced father, looking for his lost 20 year old daughter Emory. Jayce has a recurring voice in his head, berating him and warning him of the dangers surrounding him. It belongs to his mother. She chimes in at odd times, some repressed memories surfacing as his search continues.
I don’t want to give away much, but the one thing I will say is that there is a realm, called Shadow, that mingles with ours. Dark humanoid creatures and less ”normal” entities co-exists alongside us, every day. Watching and feeding. Some people can see glimpses of this ecosystem and its inhabitants. Jayce (and his daughter) have this gift, but the question is: is it really a curse?
Some things, once glimpsed… can never be unseen. Did Emory fall deep into Shadow, lost in the blood-stained alleyways and netherworld fetish clubs and night life? Then, there’s the Harvest Man. He waits in the wings, exhaling his dark as midnight smoke on those in his path, withering and melting them as calmly as the simple act of breathing.
I enjoyed this ride immensely. Everything happens fairly quick, the story taking place over 48 hours. There are definitely some highlights to be had, in particular the creature’s descriptions and the uniqueness of this world Waggoner has carved. If I had one complaint, it would be that the occasional depictions of Jayce coming to terms with his daughter’s infatuation with the more fetishistic side of Shadow. I realize that no father would have an easy time dealing with the perversity of her inclinations, but it does occasionally make the main character a tad bit creepier on the page. Unsure if it was intentional or not. I don’t think it was, though. Also, considering the number of pages between the covers, some of the ending felt a tad rushed to me. Still good and entertaining- I just wish some more time could have been spent fleshing out even more of the denizens.
Shadow’s a strange place to visit, let alone stay. I’ll give you some key phrases to illustrate. A giraffe being “undone” by Cankerworms. Shadow People melting. Demonized naughty tentacle-styled restraints and sex toys with minds of their own. A man eating napkin and a convenience store selling unholy vessels for every occasion.
It’s a bit over the top, dark and tinged with some S&M fetish styling. It’s not the focus of the story exactly, but it is constantly there and may be a bit much for some readers. I personally enjoyed it not just for the writing, but the strangeness of the whole damn thing.
When Waggoner goes weird- you keep turning the pages. Take a chance and give it a read, but you’ve been warned:
Leave your disbelief at the door and keep an eye out for those filthy Dog-Eaters.
Nobody likes them. Or Ohio Pigs.
Beware the Cankerworms…
Star Rating (out of 5): 4.5*
Jayce’s twenty-year-old daughter Emory is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, homicidal sex toys, and – worst of all – a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man. But no matter what Shadow throws at him, Jayce won’t stop. He’ll do whatever it takes to find his daughter, even if it means becoming a worse monster than the things that are trying to stop him.
FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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