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Author: Emma Ennis

Publisher : Post-Mortem Press
ISBN: 978-0615574417

Sex and violence never seem to be a far way from horror stories, but one would also add another ingredient which is an obsession with religious metaphor, and this can be found in most great classical works of the genre whether it’s the religion of “Man” as in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”  to the antediluvian vampire in Stoker’s “Dracula” who represents the opposite of all that is good and pure.

Stephen King too is not above using religious fanaticism and imagery as a backdrop for all the “hell” that breaks loose in his books whether it’s in the form of the horrible mother in “Carrie” or in the even more horrible Annie Wilkes in “Misery”.

Emma Ennis is no exception to this tradition and she tells her mainly horrid tales with a skill and dedication rarely seen these days in modern horror story writing. Absent are all the gore and verbal expletives which drive the action of some many contemporary work of this kind  and instead the reader is offered the opportunity to experience expert story telling, tightly knit rather than excessive prose and subtly disturbing story-lines.

An example of this is the psychological horror of “Come On In”, one of my personal favorites. A young woman walks home from work in heavy snow. She is depressed and in retreat after the collapse of her marriage and her life revolves around her dingy flat and alcohol.  From very early in the story a dark psychological mood is set. You empathize strongly with the woman’s isolation. Ennis writes most powerfully from the first person narrative and you are drawn into the characters world of isolation, drink and eventually hallucination. As with many of the stories, but particularly this one the reader is never sure if he or she dealing with the “real” or the imagined, especially when the character starts to feel as if something is watching her: an ugly dark diminutive being appearing from the corner of her eye hanging from the ceiling. It made me wonder if Ennis had ever seen the series of paintings by Henry Fuseli based on the folkloric figure of the incubus.

Thematically the incubus variation appears in the second story in the collection “Chosen” which does introduce both sex and violence as devices to scare the reader. But the most terrifying aspect of this story is the extent to which to heroine of the tale would go to ensure her own happiness even if it means passing on her affliction to another even more innocent person than herself. Written very much in the style of romantic fiction, there is definitely a nasty sting at the end.

On the theme of religion which I mentioned earlier, one could look to “The Guardians” and “This is 2012”. More than anything these stories are reminiscent of Stephen King and other American writers, and if you like King’s work you will definitely find much to like in these two stories. As with King, in “The Guardians” there is a thin line between horror and science fantasy, where giant spider like creatures hover over the “good” of this world and suck out their very essence. They are only visible to their victims, the “good” people, and their size and numbers make them indestructible to the hero of this story. As with King we meet a stock character as religious “fanatic” who can only make sense of his experience in “the end is nigh terms”. In  “ This is 2012”  Ennis concocts action packed vignettes of destruction based on the book of “Revelations”.

Both of these stories are extremely well written but are too derivative and seem to have a specific market in mind. But as with the other stories Ennis does not stoop to blood and guts.

Her true voice I believe is more in the subtle tones of stories like “The Frozen Outpost”. It is both a historical piece as well as an eerie exercise in folktale, this time American Indian. The outcome of this story is as cold and as cruel as the climate she describes. Ennis, who is from Ireland, lives in Norway and is probably inspired by both the spectacular landscape and extreme weather conditions of those countries.

On my bookshelf I own collections of stories by the likes of M.R. James, Conan Doyle, and HP Lovecraft and I hope Emma Ennis would not be insulted if I said that stories of this kind belong beside these.

A natural storyteller Ennis is definitely someone to watch for in the future.

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