Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Sustenance of Hoak

Holy cow, but I just read one of the best sword & sorcery stories I've ever come across. Ramsey Campbell's The Sustenance of Hoak in Swords Against Darkness volume 1. Dark, creepy, genuinely disturbing and with a nice mix of action, characterization, and bleak horror. I can't say much about the plot because the slow unfolding of the secrets of the little village of Hoak is what makes the story, but jeez it was nifty.
I have often said that true sword & sorcery, as created by Robert E. Howard, has an element of horror and often bleeds over into pure horror with a little action. Since Ramsey Campbell is considered by many to be one of the top horror writers of all time, it shouldn't surprise me that he was able to find his way to the dark heart of S&S. I know that Stephen king raves about his novel The Doll Who Ate His Mother, and I remember reading his H.P. Lovecraft inspired novel The Parasite years ago.
Anyway, it looks like he has a story in each of the five volumes of Swords Against Darkness. I'll have to resist the urge to go and read them all back to back. The other four will have to work hard to come up to the level of this one though. I need to track down some of Campbell's short story collections. Just in time for Halloween...

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