Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
We had the pleasure of interviewing Bram Stoker Award-nominated author James Dorr earlier in May regarding the release of his new novel, TOMBS: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth. Now, we present to you our review of this magnificent piece.
World building is perhaps one of the most important aspects of science fiction and fantasy, often solely deciding the imaginative depths and intricacies that define the genres. It is often difficult for authors to craft a unique world, let alone accomplish such a feat in a seamless manner.
TOMBS is an unexpected, enigmatic piece that author James Dorr spent years creating. The world is visually stunning, the layers and depths of the universe never faltering in their ability to not only captivate the reader, but to also offer a lending hand in an escape to a world full of wonder and astonishment. From the Old City to the Tombs, every setting is flawlessly illustrated with language poetic and frequently romantic. Dorr crafts his universe with talent unrivaled and unparalleled.
Told in a series of short stories that chronologically build upon the previous chapters, and in the vein of Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, TOMBS holds many tales of disturbing events, that question standards of morality and cultural norms. Dorr daringly attacks topics many may find to be unsettling, but does so in a manner that will lead readers to question their own stances on such concepts. The bravery Dorr exhibits in his prose is both foreboding and admirable.
The legends of this dystopian universe offer a bleak and dark outlook for mankind’s future, while maintaining a constant theme of hope that derives from a consistently referenced mystery, that being of love. The characters grasp onto their humanity in a world that is unforgiving, changing, and most importantly, hopeless. There is no cure for the ever-changing climate of the Latter-Day Earth, no wishful thinking for a better and less-toxic atmosphere. Rather, the characters choose to do what mankind has always been known to exceed in, more than any other species; this being the ability to adapt.
Romance and death intertwine into a stunning and macabre work of art that will take veterans of darker literature and newcomers alike to worlds unfathomable, glistening with imagination and magnificence. There are no cheerful times in this novel, desperation consistently at the cusp of all characters’ motives and actions.
Deep down in the recesses of TOMBS, the antechambers of the Old City echo with memories from our narrator, the Ghoul-poet, offering an interesting and unique point-of-view and further cementing the legendary foundations of the novel. Several scenes in TOMBS left us disturbed and unsettled, especially any setting where the Ghouls took precedence. These beings on the outside are grotesque, snarling beasts, but the more in-depth one reaches into Dorr’s realm, the more sympathy and understanding one will gain for these monsters, yet again revolving back to the central themes of humanity, preservation, love, and death.
As readers, we found Dorr’s novel, TOMBS to be breathtaking and macabre in all of the most perfect ways. We highly recommend this novel to any fan of pieces with a darker tone. If you enjoy grimdark, fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, transhumanism, post-humanism, body horror, horror, or any subgenres or combinations of these genres, we think you will find yourself hooked from the opening tale, gripping white-knuckled with anticipation for the next chapter of morose and beautifully-executed storytelling.
Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, James Dorr is a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a cat named Triana.
Catch James this year in our Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology, with his story “Flesh.”
Also from James Dorr:
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