Friday Book Review: The Dark Sea Within (Collection) by Jason V. Brock

Sea within

 

 

Jason V. Brock is a writer, editor, publisher, and documentary filmmaker who lives in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t have his bio on hand, but he has edited and appeared in a number of benchmark publications, and over the past ten years, has established himself as one of the titans in modern speculative fiction.

 

I say speculative fiction because Brock rejects the mantle of “The New Weird,” the modern day scribes who’ve appointed themselves the successors of H. P. Lovecraft. After reading his latest collection “The Dark Sea Within” (Hippocampus Press), I can’t blame him. Fiction like this transcends labels.

 

 

The stories in The Dark Sea Within are almost uniformly strange in that they are unexpected. Brock is today what H. P. Lovecraft was in the 1920s and ‘30s: An innovator whose fiction lies beyond clearly defined commercial genres. This is not to say that Brock is a Lovecraft imitator. He is not. He is, however, an author in the mold of Lovecraft. In an age where mundane tales of mummies, ghosts, mad scientists, vampires, and cackling, mustache-twirling villains where all the rage, Lovecraft dreamed beyond the rim of space and time. His fiction was strange, it was fresh, it was different. Jason V. Brock’s fiction is like that. Brock is a dark dreamer who dares to color outside the lines. He does not slavishly follow any one man, or trend, he creates his own dark, fantastic worlds.

 

“The Shadow of Heaven” is one of my favorite entries. A United States naval vessel responds to a distress call in the ice choked sea off Antarctica, and its crew slowly discovers that a dark force is at work. I was reminded of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (based on the John W. Campbell Story “Who Goes There?”). Not because Brock wanted me, the reader, to, but because he effortlessly crafted the same sense of hopeless, snow swept desolation that made “The Thing” such an effective horror piece. “Epistles from Dis” is another favorite. It takes place after a pandemic has ravaged the world, and begins with two scavengers encountering a bizarre new society along the Southern California coast. I was reminded of Pat Frank’s “Earth Abides,” and, to a lesser extent, The Road Warrior. I could even see shades of Matheson’s “I Am Legend” in its attention to scientific detail: Brock, like Matheson, tells us what the plague is and how it works. Many authors (myself included) tend to jump right in. People get sick. They die. Maybe they come back as zombies or vampires or circus clowns. No one knows how it works. Look, an explosion. Oooo. Ahhh.

 

I want to make it abundantly clear that Jason V. Brock is his own writer. I’ve compared him to both H. P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson, but not because he is one of their many imitators, but because he embodies the best qualities of both: Lovecraft’s dark and boundless imagination, Matheson’s crisp prose, sense of adventure, and attention to detail. These are things that all good writers must possess, and Brock does, in spades. He is certainly one of the best modern authors I’ve read. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he is one of the only authors in horror/sf/fantasy/weird/blahblahblah today who can not only write, but also think. And in fiction, that is the most important aspect of all.

 

I foresee a long and fruitful career for Jason Brock. A long, fruitful, and well deserved career.

 

 

 

 

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