Book Review: I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky by Brian Hodge

“By turns emotional, thrilling, and dread-inducing, leading to a muted yet devastating conclusion. Brian Hodge is clearly a master craftsman of a writer.”

I'll Bring You Birds From Out of the Sky by Brian Hodge

Released as a limited-edition hardback through Cemetery Dance, Brian Hodge’s novella I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky is a stellar example of a complete artistic package. From the cover to art-inserts by Kim Parkhurst, to the content inside, the book sings. Cemetery Dance are renowned for producing beautiful books, and this one could well be considered a crown jewel. But to the actual story, for that is the main concern …

When Timothy Randolph is brought a painting by Nina Conklin, he senses he is onto an opportunity of a lifetime. For the painting is by her great-grandfather, Cecil, and has never been viewed or appraised outside of the tiny mountain village they lived in. Moreover, Timothy owns a gallery, and something in the painting sings to him of authenticity and a raw, natural talent for art. He decides to accompany Nina to where the rest of her great-grandfather’s paintings are being stored. This, in spite of the fact that he is still recovering from a deep, personal tragedy; or perhaps because of it. Something of Nina brings out the paternal instincts of Timothy. But when he arrives at the cabin buried in the woods which contains Cecil’s work, he begins to think there is more to the long-deceased artist’s vision than a simple creative drive.

I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky is more than simply a story about a discovery of new, rural art. It’s also about grief, quiet obsessions, the creative endeavour itself, and the lengths we will go to escape something; or, in some instances, run towards something. Containing only three living characters—though Cecil is almost a character himself, given ‘life’ through interspersed monologues by unnamed narrators giving their memories and impressions of the mysterious man—we follow Timothy, Nina, and Lucas (Nina’s friend, and perhaps someone who is more obsessed with Cecil’s work than even Timothy becomes) as they discover more about Cecil’s work and life. Which opens up even more mysteries: Why Cecil took up with a woman lived over the mountain in an isolated village; how such a quiet, previously unremarkable man became the suspect in horrific murders; and the increasing sense that he wasn’t painting images from his imagination, but was trying to capture scenes he could actually see. Intuiting that a third painting is missing from a triptych, the three set out through the woods to reach the now abandoned village in the hopes of finding the missing art. It is in this place that they discover the full horror of Cecil’s vision, and that some things are best left undisturbed …

Written in a pleasing, warm folksy voice, the prose is nevertheless subtle and understated. It manages to sidestep any sense of the affected or pastiche. Instead, it gives only enough detail it needs to, allowing the reader to visualise and embellish. Like the best of weird or quiet horror writing, I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky is as much about what is suggested or hinted at. It also contains a deep well of ambiguity. Though there is horror—muted and low-key—it seems impersonal, a force of ancient, alien nature. It lends the story a slight epic tone, though one which, in keeping with the rest of the story, is not bombastic. Quietly awe-inspiring.

The whole book is beautifully produced. The cover art and interior paintings complement the story perfectly, mixing tones of folk and pagan horror with a subtler—and often downright creepy—cosmic sensibility. They are both rustic and eldritch, and capture the story perfectly. The story is short enough to be read at one sitting, and this is, perhaps, the best way to enjoy it. It is by turns emotional, thrilling, and dread-inducing, leading to a muted yet devastating conclusion. Brian Hodge is clearly a master craftsman of a writer. His sense of character, setting, and concept is pitch-perfect, and there is not one aspect of this story which flags or feels less than perfect. It’s a wonderful addition to the growing pantheon of modern weird fiction, and one which should stand head and shoulders with the best. No lover of finely crafted dark literary fiction, or collector of books, should be without this edition. Simply exquisite.

PAUL MICHAELS

Publisher: Cemetery Dance.
Limited Hardback of 1,000 copies: (104 pps)
Release Date: 28 September 2017

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