Continuing my series of recommendations of things I have enjoyed recently, this week’s recommendation is a freebie and comes from the marvellous Pseudopod.
Pseudopod have been around for over ten years and have showcased some of the best short horror fiction around. They have featured stories from Orren Grey, Thomas Ligotti Simon Bestwick and many other brilliant writers. The podcast is presented by Alasdair Stuart.
The episode(s) I am recommending here are the first time Pseudopod have hosted a three-part story. Mysterium Tremendum was written by Laird Barron and featured in his 2010 collection Occultation. It is the story of two couples, Willem and Glenn and Dane and Victor, who go on a camping and hiking holiday in the Pacific Northwest. While they are there, they stumble across The Black Guide, a sinister book that begins to shape their trip from that point on.
I’m always reluctant to give too much away regarding the plot of a story but it has to be said, Barron does a great of establishing not only horror nice and early but his characterisation is superb. He delivers characters that are gay but do not conform to cliche, nor are they used as a mouthpiece for a particular political stance. This take on sexuality is refreshing, and much needed across all genres.
The horror in the story is layered and peeled back slowly. A creeping sense of dread grows with each episode before culminating in a nightmarish final episode. One of Barron’s many strengths as a writer is his skill with description. His work does not shy away from detail, not necessarily gore, but the horrific detail of creatures or situations. Barron gives a full, frank picture of the horrors faced by the characters in this story and dares them (and us) to look away,
The story is narrated by Jon Padgett, a fantastic writer and Ligotti scholar. His narration is both dramatic and accessible. Lending emphasis in the right places and dialing down the drama where necessary to allow the words to speak for themselves. Being a good narrator is a skill (check out the wealth of reviews on Audible slamming audiobook narrators) and Padgett is among the best I’ve heard.
Check out this three-part epic production over at the Pseudopod website.