1/12/2011. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: Subterranean Press. 93 page deluxe hardback. Price: $20.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-411-6).
check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com
Two words spring to mind in connection with this book: surreal and bizarre. Described as a novella, it is because of the layout and print size, little more than a short story. It does, however, pack a lot of nuances and subtleties into it and should be read at least twice to fully appreciate what Straub is managing to achieve. Above all, it is a homage to those who have influenced him as a horror writer.
Ballard is a problem solver and twenty-five years older than Sandrine. Their relationship began when she was fifteen and her father need to park her somewhere while he was away on business. Despite Sandrine’s two failed marriages (neither of them to Ballard), they have been lovers for a quarter of a century. It is not just sex which binds them together, Both get pleasure from being cut and look for excitement in strange places.
The text skips between years and focuses on a recurring trip along the Amazon. They are the only passengers and they never see the crew. Meals and other services are mysteriously carried out. The visits are not told chronologically but each gives a deeper, darker insight into what is actually happening.
This is a collectors’ item but also demonstrates Straub’s skill at evoking atmosphere and portraying the macabre with a few well chosen words. The characters of Ballard and Sandrine are odd from the start and their relationship is unhealthy. It is almost as if they are daring each other to go from one extreme to another. This book is not for the squeamish.
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