John Langan reviews Ray Cluley

Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow, Ray Clu­ley (Spectral 978-0957392793, $20.00, 82pp) May 2015. (Snowbooks 9781911390879, £4.99, 84pp, pb) September 2016.

Ray Cluley’s Probably Monsters was one of the standouts of 2015, a collection of well-written stories about a variety of monsters in a variety of landscapes. His follow-up publication, the standalone novella, Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow, is another success. Its protagonist, Gjerta Jørgensen, is a member of Slædpatruljen Sirius, a Danish military dogsled unit responsible for patrolling Greenland’s inhos­pitable northeastern coast. As she and her partner proceed north in the days before Christmas, they are plagued by not only worsening weather, but the loss of their radio, the death of one of their dogs, and Gjerta’s growing sense that there is something pursuing them. What their pursuer might be is hinted at through a second narrative thread set during Gjerta’s childhood, when she is living with her father in rural Denmark. Her father takes her into the winter forest in order to educate her in it, but in so doing, attracts the attention of something Gjerta names the darkteeth, an entity or congeries of entities she associates with the death of her mother. After haunting the edges of her childhood, the darkteeth, it seems, have crossed the ocean to Greenland with her, and now seek a final, definitive confrontation.

The polar regions have been a setting for some of the most accomplished horror narratives, from Lovecraft’s landmark At the Mountains of Madness to Michelle Paver’s stunning Dark Matter. Cluley’s evocation of the Greenland coast’s icy austerity grounds his novella in a place that is already inimical to human existence, before the incursion of the supernatural. By providing glimpses of Gjerta’s upbringing and relation­ship with her father, he gives what would still be a compelling chase story an added layer of meaning, which results in an ending that is at once vivid and mysterious. With this novella, Ray Cluley further cements his standing as one of the most interesting of the newer generation of horror writers.

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