Until Burnt Black Suns, I had never read Simon Strantzas. Being a devotee of horror and weird fiction, I’d heard of him, but never got around to actually reading him. Of course, approaching a new collection of short stories always comes with some trepidation, however wonderful the title and cover are (and here, they certainly are wonderful) – the rule, it seems, is that only one or two of the tales will bloom above the mire. No one wants to waste money or time on an album when a couple of singles will do (and this is coming from an albumist).
Happily, there’s not a dud in the bunch here, and Burnt Black Suns stands as the best collection of new weird fiction and horror that I’ve read in some time. Throughout the collection, Strantzas’ influences stand out boldly: the Thomas Ligotti ode By Invisible Hands, Robert W Chambers’ Carcosa finds it’s way into Beyond the Banks of the River Seine, and the frozen horrorscape On Ice recalls the cycolpean monuments of John Carpenter’s The Thing and HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness mixed with a little ice-nine. Perhaps it’s just the old video gamer in me, but there’s more than a little of Silent Hill about Strong as a Rock, and the titular story reminds of Bradbury’s Mexican horror from October Country, The Next in Line. Of course, above all looms the tentacled and winged shadow of Mr. Lovecraft himself. Strantzas, though, makes all these influences his own. Each story hums with characters haunted by insecurities, loss, inadequacies, and all the faults that define us as human. Strantzas takes his time, and allows these stories to breath and the tension to build naturally. Terror and horror, the latter often of the cosmic variety, threads all of these tales, and mysteries are left unexplained in that essentially weird fiction way.
With Burnt Black Suns, Simon Strantzas has delivered a top tier collection of horror writing. Seek it out and let it carry you through its nine strange and terrible realms.