Title: The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky
Author: John Hornor Jacobs
Publisher: Harper Collins
The sub-genre (and the term itself) “cosmic horror” comes with an awful lot of baggage and, while I’m just not equipped or prepared to get into it here, we can safely safe that’s because of one very old and very dead white guy who did a whole lot of work to establish it as an actual sub-genre. The guy didn’t create it, not by a long shot, but he did a lot of things and wrote a lot of stories that for a very long time have if not outright defined what cosmic horror is, has heavily influenced it.
If you don’t know who I’m talking about right now, well, I’m sorry.
Anyways. Cosmic horror for the last few decades has been pretty, let’s say, rigidly defined. Almost specialized. For a very long time now the terms “cosmic horror” and “Lovecraftian” have been damn near synonymous. But that’s changing. Very slowly, but very surely. And it’s authors like John Hornor Jacobs that are blazing a trail into the blackened, dreadful sunset at its heart. Because I think somewhere along the way we lost what cosmic horror even means. We started taking it entirely too much at face value.
Cosmic horror, you say? So I can expect eldritch entities and vast, alien gods of ruin and horror? I can expect maybe fish people if I’m lucky? Ancient astronauts and sub-human cults? All that’s well and good, god knows I love a fish person as much as the next guy, but we’ve gotten away from the core of it. Lingering traces are there, darkening and blurring the edges, but the intrinsic and intimate handling of fear itself is lacking. The cold, glaring stare of the unfeeling cosmos is barely a glance.
The terror of existence, the absolute horror of reality itself.
But in THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY we find at last an unflinching look at the naked monstrosity of life, of the world, and of humanity. Especially humanity. Especially the vicious, bloody depths humanity will go to.
Because the real fear, the real horror, of the story comes from the people. Make no mistake, though, the supernatural is there. It’s lingering on the verge of it all, corrupting it, shading it with the weird and the dreadful. There is an occult text, there are mysterious encounters and otherworldly circumstances. But the thread that winds and weaves its way from the beginning to the end of the book, the horror that keeps its hand in a varying grip around the reader’s throat throughout the entirety? That comes from the humans themselves, and from an unapologetic look at the world and what an absolutely terrible place it can be with little to no help at all from divine or infernal forces.
I didn’t realize how many times while reading THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY I was holding my breath. It’s a fantastic, blood-curdling story from an author I’ve enjoyed for a while who just keeps stepping up his game. I cannot wait for the follow-up A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL next year.