Book Review: ‘The Human Alchemy’ by Michael Griffin

Written by Michael Griffin

Heralded as one of the leading voices in contemporary weird fiction, Michael Griffin returns with his second collection, The Human Alchemy. Here you will find eleven magnificent tales of the strange and sublime, the familiar and the disquieting, where dreamlike beauty and breathtaking horror intertwine. Featuring an introduction by S.P. Miskowski.

Plot summary taken from wordhorde.com.

The Human Alchemy

Michael Griffin’s fiction has a way of crawling under your skin. This collection—made up of 10 stories and 1 novella—accomplishes just that. Though the stories have been published elsewhere in magazines and themed anthologies, the Griffin D.N.A is ever-present. ‘The Human Alchemy’ is filled with horror unspoken, fears and motivations hidden behind every enigmatic terror. His writing is clean and clear, laced with cerebral prose at every turn. His stories often take their time, but never overstay their strange welcome. The further I got into the collection, the more I began to notice the themes. Unreachable knowledge. Disintegration of body and mind. The insidious geometry of madness. It’s a testament to Griffin’s talent that each story surprised and thrilled me, even when I saw the writing on the wall for his poor protagonists.

It’s easy to see the fingerprints of the horror masters of yore in the collection. ‘A Slipping of Stones’ conjures the unreal quiet of Aickman’s best. The unrivaled terrors of domestic life build a home that even Shirley Jackson would have shuddered at in ‘An Ideal Retreat’. ‘Fire-Dancing’ charts a course through Laird Barron country and into a very interesting party. Though the fingerprints of other writers exist, each story felt wholly original.

Bottom line: the people at Word Horde have delivered another masterwork of a collection. Michael Griffin’s writing is efficiently drawn, but packed with dream-like and unique horror imagery. The stories enclosed are rich and varied. ‘The Lure of Devouring Light’ (his first collection) showed us a talent to watch out for. ‘The Human Alchemy’ shows us that the talent has arrived.

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