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Review: That Which Should Not Be by Brett J Talley

Review: That Which Should Not Be by Brett J TalleyThat Which Should Not Be by Brett J Talley
on 2011
Genres: Horror
Pages: 260
Format: eBook
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In years to come when I look back on the authors that shaped my recent conversion to the sub-genre of cosmic horror as created by Lovecraft, two names will top that list. The first is Tim Curran. The second is, now, Brett J. Talley.

At first glance That Which Should Not Be seems unwieldy. The book takes the form of a manuscript delivered to those responsible for the estate of the recently disappeared and presumed dead narrator, Dr Carter Weston. In it, Dr Weston details his journey to becoming a true believer in evil that lives just beyond the edge of our senses, one that is greater by far than human kind, and is waiting for its chance to slip back into our world and reclaim it whole. The way this journey is conveyed is through the transcription of tales told to Dr Weston by four others who have survived brushes with various forms of said evil, apparently word-for-word based on what he heard. At times this makes for a flashback within an oral story then transcribed by the listener, who is himself attempting to write his own story around the aforementioned tales. Like I said, unwieldy.

But if you can accept the format within which Talley sets his story, there is quality to be found here. Each of the verbal tales adds something telling to Weston’s own journey, and at the end come together in an enjoyable way. In effect, this reads a little like the literary equivalent of an anthology movie: Four short stories told within the context of a wraparound tale. In this case, though, the wraparound is the meat of the novel, rather than the filling to loosely connect the rest together.

Talley is clearly a talented writer, sweeping the reader up in his end of the 19th century tales, and adding a growing sense of menace to proceedings. For me, the stand out was the story set in the insane asylum, but that’s likely personal preference, as each tales brings something worthwhile to the table. If anything, the end of the novel comes too quickly, and doesn’t quite convey the same sense of impending horror as the first three tales told to Weston.

In the end, That Which Should Not Be is both a fine novel on its own, and an even better entry into the sub-genre created by Lovecraft. Fans of that writer owe it to themselves to pick up Talley’s novel and treat themselves.

3.5 up to 4 Many-Tentacled Gods for That Which Should Not Be.

About Brett J Talley

A native of the South, Brett Talley received a philosophy and history degree from the University of Alabama before moving to witch-haunted Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School. When people ask, Brett tells them he writes for fortune and glory. But the truth is the stories in his head simply refuse to stay put. Brett loves every kind of fiction—from horror to literary to historical to sci-fi—as long as there are fantastic characters with a compelling purpose. There’s still magic to be found in fiction, the mysterious and the unknown still beckon there, and the light can always triumph over the darkness, no matter how black the night may be.

Brett writes when he can, though he spends most of his time working as a lawyer so that he can put food on the table. That is, until the air grows cool and crisp and fall descends. For then it is football time in the South, and Brett lives and dies with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Roll Tide.

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