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Low Red Moon
Caitlín R. Kiernan
Subterranean Press, 361 pages

Ryan Obermeyer
Low Red Moon
Caitlín R. Kiernan
Born in Ireland, Caitlín R. Kiernan spent most of her life in the southeastern US. Originally trained as a paleontologist, she began writing fiction on a full-time basis in 1992. Her short fiction has appeared in such anthologies as The Sandman: Book of Dreams, Lethal Kisses, Dark Terrors 2 and Dark Terrors 3. She began writing comics in 1996 with work on DC Comics' The Dreaming. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Caitlín R. Kiernan Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Threshold
SF Site Review: Candles For Elizabeth
SF Site Review: Silk

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Deacon Silvey doesn't want to help the police solve their latest crime, mostly because he knows the trouble it'll bring him if his wife finds out. They want him to accompany them to an apartment where a brutal murder has taken place, and use his special powers to see the killer. He's done with that, he has a wife and a baby on the way, but a monetary bribe convinces him to take a quick look.

He'll be sorry he did. What he'll see is a creature -- half beast, half woman -- who seems to revel in the horror and blood. This is his introduction to Narcissa Snow.

His new wife Chance Matthews won't meet Snow for awhile, but Narcissa's looking forward to this meeting, because she's half werewolf and a ghoul wannabe who sees Deacon Silvey's baby as the key to getting into the club. Of course, as with every impending supernatural disaster there are signs... Chance has visions, or perhaps hallucinations, of oozing blood, and Deacon dreams of Narcissa, grisly dreams that give him clues to help track her.

The main struggle Deacon faces is balancing his marriage and a promise to stay away from this life with his desire to know what -- or who -- this monster is, all without Chance finding out. He's afraid if he doesn't track this creature, it'll hurt some other innocent. He doesn't know the connection to himself, which makes him seem even more heroic. Chance, with her baby coming soon, just wants a normal life. This adds a great deal to the tension of the book, especially when Narcissa seems to preternaturally know when someone's looking into her. Since Deacon is depending on an old friend to look things up for him, it makes the situation seem even more dangerous, not just for Deacon and Chance, but for anyone who touches their lives.

Narcissa herself lends much to the creepy atmosphere of Low Red Moon. The glimpses of her childhood are filled with disturbing images and feelings -- the darkly evocative scenes manage to flavor the whole book, as well as contribute to the gray areas of Narcissa's character. We can almost like her, this lonely, tough, scary little girl, who is always isolated, her mind filled with ichorous thoughts. It is no wonder that her main goal, her dream right now, is to belong to the Ghouls, to be a part of something as vile and dark at heart as she is. The need to belong to a like group is a universal need, and the path she was given since she was little left her no choice. I guess it just goes to prove that no one is creepy through their own eyes, their own perspective.

We lose much of our pity for her when we are outside of her skull, though, as Caitlín R. Kiernan masterfully juggles other perceptions with the dark atmosphere. Throughout much of the book, it is something far darker than any imaginings which is waiting, holding its breath.

Deacon's fight with the bottle goes a long way in making us feel for him in his situation. The visions he has are vicious, only the nastiest happenings haunt his mind, and they leave him crippled with a horrible migraine. Originally the cure to erase these pictures and the pain that accompanied them was a bottle of whisky. Staying away from that world for Chance and their baby's sake is what made it easier for him to quit drinking. But now that he is returning to it, he finds that the allure of the bottle is greater than ever. As for Chance, her fretfulness over the baby and over her marriage is enough to bring our compassion away from Narcissa and to her, especially as we learn what Narcissa wants.

Low Red Moon is called a sequel to Threshold, one where "The events of Threshold never occurred." I haven't read this book, and a quick search for jacket copy convinces me that, indeed, the two books really have nothing much to tie them together. This makes me believe that you could read either book first. The Subterranean Press release of Low Red Moon is supposed to be very lovely. I have an galley proof, so I don't know, but one of my friends is absolutely in love with it.

To sum it up (and to come back to my point) Low Red Moon resounds with atmospheric creepiness. Filled with strange, fascinating characters, it is one of those books whose combined imagery and dialogue makes it impossible not to savor. Long time Belly fans may be humming the song "Low Red Moon" under their breaths the whole time, but somehow it fits wonderfully.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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