Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Where Furnaces Burn (2012) by Joel Lane

Where Furnaces Burn (2012) by Joel Lane, containing the following stories:

A Cup of Blood (2004), A Mouth to Feed by (2008), Beth's Law (2009),  Black Country (2010),  Blind Circles (2004),  Blue Smoke (2012),  Dreams of Children (2012),  Even the Pawn (2012),  Facing the Wall (2004), Incry (2011), Morning's Echo (2010), My Stone Desire (2007),  Point of Departure (2012), Quarantine (2012), Slow Burn (2012), Stiff as Toys (1998), Still Water (2007),The Hostess (2010), The Last Witness (2010), The Receivers (2002), The Sunken City (2012), The Victim Card (2004), Waiting for the Thaw (2012), Wake Up in Moloch (2012), Winter Journey (2008), and Without a Mind (2012).  

Winner of the 2013 World Fantasy Award for best collection, Where Furnaces Burn is a story cycle from the late and much lamented Joel Lane, England's horror-poet of the industrial, rusting North where much of this book is set. Where Furnaces Burn follows the police career of its first-person narrator in and around the Manchester area.

Lane tended to avoid long short stories, preferring to write short, dense works that nonetheless generally worked as stories and not as fragments of vignettes. That's true here -- though the stories form a larger pattern, they also for the most part stand on their own.

Here we deal again and again with horrors rising out of industrial decay, poverty, and modern alienation (and the protagonist may be the most alienated of them all). Lane's prose is superbly suited to his interests -- poetic at points, grim, and pragmatically matter-of-fact even in the most poetic moments.

These are supernatural stories, mind you, not simply hardboiled excursions into Northern English crime. Ancient horrors adapt to the modern world; new horrors are born. Lane's spiritual forebears include American Fritz Leiber, whose 1940 short story "Smoke Ghost" invented a new way of evoking the horrors of the industrialized world. They also include Ramsey Campbell and his groundbreaking 'kitchen-sink' horror that began in the late 1960's. 

It's all disturbing, sad, and often strangely moving. But Lane also conjures up some fearsome horrors, whether newly minted or ancient and adapting to the Brave New Decaying World. It's brilliant stuff, and a fitting coda to a great writing career. Highly recommended.

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