Book Review: Palladium at Night by Christopher Slatsky

“Slatsky has produced a genuinely disturbing story complete with great characterisation, a creepy setting and unsettling ties to real-life mysteries.”

Palladium at Night by Christopher Slatsky - coverChristopher Slatsky is a weird horror fiction author living in L.A. whose debut collection, Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales (Dynatox Ministries, 2015), was universally praised by fellow horror authors such as Adam Nevill, Michael Wehunt, Phillip Fracassi and S.P. Miskowski. With such an impressive debut, the next book was bound to be hotly anticipated, and Slatsky has duly delivered.

The story revolves around the protagonist, Irepani, someone who has had his share of troubles in the past. He hints at having crossed the Mexican border to gain access to the US, a period of homelessness and struggle with alcohol abuse. But he has managed to find stability, relying on his own trinity; his cousin Lorena, his beloved pet dog Codeja and god. But he longs for a few days away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So, when he hears about the Leman fire lookout tower deep in the forest, he loads up with supplies and borrows Lorena’s jeep and takes Codeja away for a well-earned break to clear his head. But he doesn’t reckon on the secret hidden within the nearby Leman Observatory. And the shadowy forces at work.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the story is just how much of the details are based on real events. There is indeed a Palladium at Night satellite that was launched by United Launch Alliance, but the government agency responsible for operating the satellite and its purpose remain a mystery. There are references to PAN and Jack Parsons, a real historical figure, a pioneer in the field of jet propulsion infamous for his occult beliefs and ties to Aleister Crowley. Slatsky has utilised one of the stranger and lesser-known figures of history to cultivate an unsettling tale of weird horror.

Despite the hint of science fiction with reference to the satellite and the dialogue between the scientists and military, the pervading theme is the dread that Irepani feels from the moment he enters the wilderness. From the first instance of trouble experienced with the electrical system of the of the jeep and Codeja’s growing unease with the forested surroundings, to the discovery of the shrine room, Slatsky does an effective job of building the feeling of tension and dread so that we feel as Irepani feels.

Irepani is a very believable protagonist, given his character flaws and his experiences of life, on the street and struggles with alcoholism. The flashbacks to an incident when he was 8-years-old add an extra layer to the horror 24-year-old Irepani is facing, and extra depth to the purpose of the PAN satellite and the aims of the mysterious people behind it. Despite all of the trouble he has experienced and the horror that he faces, his love for his only companion, Codeja, shines through in those passages, giving a brief respite to the darkness.

The descriptive language employed by Slatsky, particularly in the final scenes with Irepani, where the passage of time becomes blurred, is very effective. He does a good job of focusing on the prose and depiction of character and the growing tension, avoiding becoming bogged down in the details of the science and the events. The most impressive aspects of the story are the characters and the mood, which Slatsky develops from page one until the gripping finale.

Dim Shores has a reputation for delivering high-quality limited edition books by some of the most talented authors of Weird fiction and Palladium at Night is a fine addition to its catalogue. Slatsky has produced a genuinely disturbing story complete with great characterisation, a creepy setting and unsettling ties to real-life mysteries. And, after his popular debut with Alectryomancer, he has further established himself as a promising talent in the field of the Weird.

 

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Dim Shores
Chapbook: (52 pps)
Publication date: 1 June 2017

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