Burnt Black Suns – Simon Strantzas


bbsBURNT BLACK SUNS by Simon Strantzas
Hippocampus Press 2014

I have just received this book as purchased from the publisher.
Cover Art by Santiago Caruso
Foreword  by Laird Barron

My previous reviews of Simon Strantzas books:

Beneath The Surface

Cold to the Touch

Nightingale Songs


14 thoughts on “Burnt Black Suns – Simon Strantzas

  1. On Ice
    I have had this book ‘on ice’ since I received it a month or two ago and, now, tentatively, I begin to explore it like the characters in this first adventurous story explore an Arctic island for its fossils or, we somehow sense, something that is going to eat them alive? Combining, arguably, the Dogan from Stephen King’s Dark Tower and HPL’s Dagon, this is a ground-breakingly haunting, I nearly said a chilly, tale, where we meet our Nemonymous Night – subsumed or shrivelled by some voracious geomantic centre of human-monster symbiosis or seedbed as incubated not by heat but by ice.

  2. Dwelling on the Past
    “He wanted to approach without it being clear where he was headed.”
    Like story protagonist, like story author, like story reviewer, especially a dreamcatcher…
    This echoes the previous story of haunting dream or guilt, there of dead father, here of dead daughter, or neither not so dead, and I wander the fine sinewy descriptions of a night and a pit, a disturbingly not bottomless pit, beneath canvas, with not buried fingers this time, but teeth or claws scattered, and a border dispute between industry and national creeds, and I feel, along with the protagonist, torn between the vying parties, and I am still heading in a different direction from the story’s own, even if the story determined in which wrong direction I headed. Poignant and presumably memorable. With the best ever description of a mechanical digger in literature, I guess. The Dogan’s digger?

  3. Strong as a Rock
    I felt at first that this story was simplistic and far-fetched, two brothers, one mourning their recently deceased mother more than the other mourns her, has become a moper at home, a non-risk taker, while the other brother persuades him to go rock climbing, without previous experience, with him… Surely asking for trouble, I thought. And a very unlikely scenario. A wrong direction. Yet the tale did eventually resolve my problems with it and I dare not tell you even the middle-term outcome let alone the final ending (which is brilliant) for fear of spoiling your enjoyment. It just took me along accretively and saved me from thinking too deeply as I might have been doing heretofore in this review – and there are some genuinely frightening moments for their own sake. I don’t know how it all worked, but it did.

  4. By Invisible Hands
    “The house around him was peculiar, but its design called forth something from the void of his memory, some arcane thought that barely surfaced like a leviathan beneath arctic ice.”
    His hands riven not so much by arctic ice but by many an arthritic ligottus, this is the tale of an aged and still ageing puppet-maker, an effectively and unashamedly Gothic-textured fable of identity and control – and I dare you not to go along with its dark spirit.
    Mr. L—: I have need of your services. Please come at once.”

  5. One Last Bloom
    I am afraid I could not get beyond the start of Markowitz’s journal in this long work. It may turn out that one day I shall regret jumping this work that seems to promise (or threaten!) to be an academic microbiological intrigue of a missing Doctor on an expedition with his male assistant and those left behind at the university to fathom out what happened to them – sown with amorous cross-currents, …… but life is too short to risk reading the whole of this apparently over-linear, if nicely written, novella of stilted real-time conversations, fabricated journal entries and impending stock frights. I hope I can be forgiven if I have missed out on something intrinsically great and/or of significance to the whole book. But, in all my gestalt reviews of the books that I have personally purchased, I do depend on the gut-feeling of a serendipity concerning what I choose to read and what I choose not to read in any particular book – although choosing-not-to-read seldom happens thankfully.

  6. Thistle’s Find
    As this story is shorter, I managed to finish it, mainly so as to discover if it had any redeeming features. It is larger than life and strikingly absurd but not done well enough, in my view, to transcend how shocking it is, and, so, I am afraid again, this was not my cup of tea.
    There was a story on a similar theme of human-alien sexual congress in my edited and published ‘Horror Without Victims’ (‘Like Nothing Else’ by Christopher Morris) and, in those circumstances, it is not surprising I found that one more ‘meaningful’!

  7. Beyond the Banks of the River Seine
    “Few truly know those they idolise most.”
    This story is, for me, the book truly back on track. And that is not only because it is about classical music, my deepest leisure-time love, but also because it combines a Proustian unrequited love of a lady, the jealousy and envy of composers, the nature of art, the Dr Faustus theme of Thomas Mann where that book’s classical music is reaped from a harvest of the Devil, and here, in the Strantzas, the Devil is skilfully represented by a hybrid of three things: Chambers’ Carcosa, an imputed Lovecraftian xenophobia concerning alien breeds from abroad and the failed requital of obsessive love.

  8. Emotional Dues
    “…and focused on the string tied around the painting’s frame, and how it had become knotted. He worked the knot with the tips of his nails,…”
    …and I wonder if that ‘wrong direction’ in untying the knot I mentioned about a dead father earlier in this review was indeed what I had already absorbed by osmosis from the whole book, as if the ink was in the air ready to be absorbed away somewhere in my body? This story, too, echoes the earlier puppet-maker and the composer, portraying a Faustian absorption by one’s own art, where, here, it is abstract painting, deliberate emotions appearing splattered in contradistinction to Pollock who splashed randomly? One needs to accept this work for what it is, a rarefied and often crudely magnified Gothic story, with an Asian servant Nadir, a painter Girder, an art customer Rasp. And painterly weird sections of prose stunningly depicting outright nightmare. When Girder closely clasps one of his paintings to him, not wishing to ‘release’ it, he is as if both ashamed and adoring of what he has produced, and it made me think of the author himself with this his wild story, feeling both proud and manic, trying but failing to leapfrog the middle man in the business of literature, a business that often scorns such fiction, to leapfrog directly toward me the reader. But there are no middle men, I guess, only fathers and sons.

  9. image

    Burnt Black Suns
    “…to display the wreath circling her forearm like a large bracelet. It was made of hundreds of dried stems woven into a rough tangled circle.”
    “…her ligaments aching as they stretched to accommodate their growing child.”
    “A thick cord was tied around one of its branches, the spot beneath worn smooth, and at its end swung what remained of a faded piñata.”
    “The unclassifiable thing was painted pink, a colored ribbon around its neck, and had what looked like four limbs.”
    “Noah slumped down into one of the tiny desks, unable to keep his balance any longer. Knees up to his chest, he couldn’t help but laugh, the rasps swirling in his chest…”

    Following what perhaps only I would call the knotted ligotti of arthritis in invisible hands earlier, the tangled puppet that is this author …and at the end of this substantial story there are what I might envision as umbilici spilling, unknotting and then knotting into a black sun hanging from the sky, in a crazily apocalyptic vision that only madmen could possibly write where that father-son knot is either spooled or unspooled in the right or wrong direction to become something I cannot spoil here …I sense this book’s journey here completed, with this story transcending the otherwise linear, mostly plainly-worded, rite of passage that is its plot (sown with blindingly wild visions of sheer desperations of horror and loss), with stock ‘evil’ rituals of unvisited parts of Mexico whereto a young woman’s pregnancy is taken in unlikely dangerous fashion as part of a man’s heated mission to find his other child, his son, abducted here by his ex-wife. Perhaps, in certain ways, predictable enough in a Rosemary’s Baby sort of way, if it were not for what I observed earlier: the steadfast pride and maniacal joy in writing such fictions for readers equally as mad as those who write them.
    If you are one such reader, this is the ideal book for you. It will continue working its way out from inside…unfurling forever, I sense, like a black rose.


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