Book Review: The Warren by Brian Evenson

“Though not technically horror, The Warren is rather disturbing, with hints of paranoia, psychotic behavior, violence, even body-horror, all delivered with a steady prose that turns stranger by the second.”

The Warren by Brian Evenson

Nameless, confused, and unsure of who he really is, X believes he is one of many, descended from many before him. And though his memory is slipping, there are many things he does know, the first of which is he is all alone. Then he discovers someone outside, above ground and exposed to the elements beyond the shelter of the Warren. The other is injured, perhaps even dying. X now has a task that is as shattered as his failing memory, and attempts to revive the other. Multiple personalities emerge, taking over when the other identities fade out. Repeated queries to the damaged monitor only add to the confusion as passwords are set then completely forgotten from one identity to another. As his objective become infinitely more difficult to understand, X must come face to face with the possibility that he, as well as the other from outside the Warren are not who they think they are.

The Warren is the latest effort from Brian Evenson. Part of the Tor.com latest series of novellas, this simple story reinforces Evenson’s title as one of the reigning masters of disturbing, weird fiction. Author of The Open Curtain, Father of Lies, A Collapse of Horses, Windeye, and Last Days, Evenson’s style here is at full throttle, conjuring powerful imagery and deft characterisation with a minimalist prose that flows with the utmost command of language. With just a few characters, he takes us on a journey to find the answers to mankind’s most important questions: Who am I? What does it mean to be human?

Answering these age old questions is a difficult task, mainly because just as we get right on the edge of finding the truth, other questions immediately spring up to muddy the waters even more. Readers will not find the answers to these questions here, but that’s the point. Evenson uses this harsh apocalyptic environment to pose these questions knowing the journey to discovery is subjective and extremely personal. X’s many personalities mimic the frustration we all feel when pondering our own reality. We believe we are human because that is what we’ve always believed, even though the answer is much, much deeper than basic biology. There are things science can never answer, things we will think and ponder on until the end of time, because to know the truth reveals our fate, and that is the one answer we always question.

Though not technically horror, The Warren is rather disturbing, with hints of paranoia, psychotic behaviour, violence, even body-horror, all delivered with a steady prose that turns stranger by the second. With a steady opening pace, every turn of the page ramps up the action, each splintered personality offering yet another wrinkle in the narrative. As X’s memory gaps grow more and more troublesome, Evenson quickens the pace to a frantic pitch. The conclusion embraces the weird, at once wildly unpredictable yet effortlessly logical and Evenson poses more questions here than he answers, yet he still drives his point home with surgical precision, allowing readers to tie things up for themselves internally. Fans of his work will relish this little tale as a welcome addition to his growing body of work, while newer readers will melt in his straight-forward style, lulled unaware while Evenson lays his traps, newer readers won’t even see the horror coming until it’s too late. But once those traps are sprung, readers will be marked forever, making them fans for life. If you’re ready for some new long form fiction from Brian Evenson, fear not, it’s here, and well worth the wait.



Publisher: Tor.com
Paperback: (96pp)
Release Date: 20 September 2016

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