And we’re actually kicking off the party this year with something…good?
It takes a certain type to crew a ship that drops you seven years at a time into the Deep. Kite-class cargo ships like Menkalinan get burned-out veterans, techs who’ve been warned off-planet, medics who weren’t much good on the ground. The Gliese-D run isn’t quite the end of the line, but it’s getting there. No cachet, no rewards, no future; their trading posts get Kites full of cargo that the crew never ask questions about, because if it’s headed for Gliese-D, it’s probably something nobody wanted.I have ugly messy love-shaped feels about Genevieve Valentine’s wonderful run on Catwoman last year, so I was SUPER PSYCHED to find out that she’s also published a handful of novels and novellas across multiple genres, and even MORE psyched to see that one of them was a sci-fi horror that was also on SALE a couple of weeks ago.
A year into the Deep, Amadis Reyes wakes up. Menkalinan is sounding the alarm; something’s wrong. The rest of the crew are dead.
That’s not even what’s wrong.
I’m hesitant to say much about the book in question, because the unknown aspects of the story are what give it much of its dreadful (in a good way) atmosphere, but in terms of pure quality Dream Houses might be the best thing that I’ve read for one of these Spooktaculars. It’s beautifully written both stylistically and technically, packing what could be pages’ worth of exposition into one or two sentences, creating a whole world in negative space. It sits at just the right junction of reflective character/theme development and shit-happening, and thanks to that, it’s genuinely unsettling in a mess of ways that I wasn’t expecting from the flap summary.
Dream Houses manages to combine all of the uncomfortable, mentally squirmy things that characterize effective literary horror for me: the tingling, movement-in-the-corner-of-your-eye-while-you’re-home-alone creep factor; the terror of a situation that you can’t control, that will inevitably undo you; and the narrower, more immediate horror of choosing to live through it, no matter what the cost.
Most of this served to make me grateful that I wasn’t Amadis, that I could warp out of that world as soon as I put the book down, but Dream Houses is emotionally engaging in a way that makes it hard to shake off. The melancholia lingers, man, and it’s a draining reading experience. I mean that as an A+ good job compliment, though, because it made me feel some kind of terrible, which is basically all I want out of a horror book.
On that note, I did not find it as creepy as I would have liked. I mean no doubt there were some creep-tastic moments that seemed like they were ALMOST gonna make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but they were too brief and occasional, too far apart to sustain the tension I was looking for. I’M NOT SAYING THIS TO SOUND LIKE A DISMISSIVE DOUCHE I SWEAR, I’m mostly just mentioning it because it came closer than most to creeping me out, so perhaps it’ll be more effective for people who are less desensitized.
There’s also in general just a lot of stuff in Dream Houses that I find cool and/or terrifying: AIs with personalities; relative time in space travel, AKA time passes differently for the people you left behind, so start sobbing now; the extreme vastness of space; choral music – I HAVE REAL SPIRITUAL-ESQUE FEELINGS ABOUT CHORAL MUSIC OK???
Anyway, all of that and more await inside, well-utilized and beautifully described, so if you also have FEELS about those things, you may enjoy this book.
TL;DR, Dream Houses was a great way to kick off the season, and an even more promising introduction to Genevieve Valentine’s pretty prose. I’m excited to read more.