Lethe Press, 2013
Here's another author I discovered via Ellen Datlow. In her The Best Horror of the Year Volume 7 (which I haven't yet read -- it's going on vacation with me here shortly) Ms. Datlow begins with notable books and other publications from the year, something she does in each of the Best Horror of the Year anthologies. My normal practice is to sit with this huge list, go through each title one by one on the internet, and then make a list of authors I may explore in the future. So, when I got to Butcher's Road (which grabbed me because of the synopsis), I thought I'd possibly give that one a go, but I decided I'd first try some of the author's short fiction discovered while researching the novel. To my surprise and delight, Like Light for Flies turned out to be a nearly-perfect collection of short stories, both in terms of the stories themselves, and in the lives reflected within which are just not pretty. There is a bleak mix of pain, loneliness and suffering embedded within these tales; as Sarah Langan most astutely notes in her introduction,
"Thomas' characters aren't refreshingly happy gay men. They don't share fancy condos and egg/sperm donors. We're not invited to witness their normalcy, and the kids are definitely not all right. No, these guys are veterans of a hate war. They're haunted; afflicted by their place in society, as represented by monstrous machines and devils at the door. What's worse, in Thomas' world, we're all fucked up. The heteros, the kids, the little old ladies, and even the family pet. We're flawed creatures, molded from a flawed God."How very right she is -- and Thomas sublimely captures this point of view through his writing.
Twelve stories make up this collection (** denotes my favorites):
- "Comfortable in Her Skin" -- not one of my favorites, but it did thoroughly whet my appetite for more
- "The Butcher's Block" **
- "Testify" **
- "The Dodd Contrivance"
- "Inside Where It's Warm" ** [sidebar]-- I hate zombie-ish stories but I loved this one. Absolutely.
- "Nothing Forgiven" **
- "Fine in the Fire" ** -- After starting this incredibly sad story, I realized that I'd read it before; it's even better and more intensely disturbing the second time through.
- "The House in the Park" **
- "Turtle" ** -- for me, one of the best in the book
- "Landfall '35: A Prequel to Parish Damned " **
Langan also mentions the darkness in "the world beneath this one," and that is exactly what the author reveals here. She also notes a "duality" present in Thomas' writing, saying
"...he wants to corrupt us, but also wants us to become richer people for it. He's a soul preacher."If Like Light for Flies is representative of his longer work, I'll soon be making space for more books by Lee Thomas on my shelves. It is just superbly stunning. He can preach to me any time.