November 3, 2009

Rabid Reads: "Ouroboros" by Michael Kelly and Carol Weekes

Title: Ouroboros

Authors: Michael Kelly and Carol Weekes
Published: Arcane Wisdom; imprint of Bloodletting Press (October 2009, e-book and limited edition hardcover)
Pages: 254
Genre: Horror

Earlier this year, Ouroboros was originally to be published by Humdrumming Limited, but the publisher unfortunately went out of business a mere week before the novel's scheduled release. Luckily for the authors, and now for readers, Norm Rubenstein championed the book and helped to convince Larry Roberts, the head honcho for Bloodletting Press--winner of this year's Specialty Press Award at the Bram Stoker Awards--to consider it for publication. The authors, Michael Kelly and Carol Weekes, saw fit to go with Bloodletting Press under a new imprint called Arcane Wisdom. Now Ouroboros is one of the two debut novels to be published under this new small press imprint. The book is now available for purchase, officially released on Halloween. And, as a horror fan fortunate enough to read a review copy of this book, I'll cut to the chase and say you should definitely read this book if you're a fan of horror literature. Heck, if you're a fan of literature, period.

I added this title to my wish list after first hearing about it through Norm Rubenstein's enthusiastic praise on Pod of Horror. And not long after it appeared on a "Wish List Wednesday" entry a couple of weeks back, Carol Weekes was gracious enough to offer me a review copy in PDF format. I don't have an e-reader or a netbook, just a jalopy computer with a CRT monitor that's slowly burning away my retinas. So, my willingness and eagerness to read Ouroboros in electronic format should speak to how much I wanted to read it. I have no regrets, even if I end up with a seeing-eye dog under my Christmas tree.

Dorothy "Dolly" Hooper dies due to breast cancer, leaving behind a devastated husband, Tom. Grief-stricken, Tom becomes reclusive and seems to implode as life goes on without the love of his life. His neighbors and best friends, Mick and Robbie Hamlin, are also heartbroken by Dolly's death, but doubly effected as they watch Tom gradually decay in his sorrow, both physically and mentally. Mick becomes especially concerned in the weeks that follow, as Tom's behavior changes radically and seems to adopt a delusion that Dolly is still in the house with him. Tom and his wife, Robbie, try to be understanding, but when he starts to see strange and disturbing things occurring next door, he starts to wonder if there is something more insidious at work than merely a widower's loneliness.

Under the graying autumn skies of the eastern coast of Nova Scotia, Canada--my home province--we are given a haunting glimpse into one man's torment of watching his friend succumb to the loss of a great love and the insurgence of an ancient evil. Also, we are treated with the alternate view of events as the second part of the novel changes point of view from Mick to Tom, and we are given an even more disturbing glimpse into a life of mourning, delusion, and desperation compounded by the pernicious entity now inside his home. Cancer may have stolen Dolly from all of their lives, but something far worse could end them all.

Loved. This. Book.

I don't get the chance to get in on the ground floor when a great novel comes along, as my acquisitions come from used-book stores and libraries, so I feel fortunate to be one of the first to read Ouroboros. That's because I have the distinct feeling this book is something special. Norm Rubenstein stated that it transcended genre in his extolment for the novel, and I think that's an apt appraisal. Horror fans will enjoy the book, but those who tend to veer away from the darker fiction are going to miss out on a damned good read.

For a brief two-hundred and some-odd pages, there is a powerful and packed story contained in this book's pages. I may be a little biased given the setting is Nova Scotia, but this is a story that would resonate equally no matter where Kelly and Weekes set the stage. The characters are refreshing to read in both their realism and their age--I'm tired of teens being the focus of horror stories and welcome a few septuagenarians (seventy-year-olds, in case you don't know) to take the lead roles.

There is a somewhat mismatched opening scene in the prologue involving a wanderer in the ancient Egyptian desert, but it works over the long haul and you appreciate the sense of history that's going to creep (or slither) into the lives of the Coopers and the Hamlins, not to mention the unfortunate fodder characters that run afoul of the supernatural entities at work. And while I don't want to spoil anything, I will say that I will never look at a snake or an owl the same way ever again. Animals are spooky, boys and girls.

Michael Kelly and Carol Weekes have written a gem of a novel. Read it if you ever get the chance. I have a few more '09 releases sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read, but I distinctly believe I have read my favorite book of 2009.

You can find other reviews for this title at: Macabre Musings; She Never Slept

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