What Moves the Dead

Tor Nightfire. Jul. 2022. 176p. ISBN 9781250830753. $19.99. HORROR
A lone, tired person on horseback encounters a mushroom that resembles the severed muscles of dying soldiers as they approach a decaying manor house, the home of their dear friends, Madeline and Roderick Usher. They have traveled quickly at the behest of Madeline, who is near death. As they reach for the intriguing mushroom, a traveling mycologist stops them, for this mushroom is not only rare, but also releases a foul odor. So begins Kingfisher’s (Nettle & Bone) retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” filling in much of what was left unsaid in the original story with intensely unsettling, claustrophobic fungal details. Told exclusively from the perspective of narrator Alex Easton, Kingfisher’s story moves forward briskly, ratcheting up the dread with every sentence. Readers will be rapt as the tension builds to near bursting levels and the true meaning of the title comes into full, skin-crawling view.
VERDICT Retold Gothic classics and fungus-themed horror are both having a moment, and Kingfisher’s well-paced, immersive novella will satisfy those seeking read-alikes for Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. Also suggest Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey’s excellent anthology Fungi and the nature field horror of Jeff VanderMeer.
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