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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dead Shift by John Llewellyn Probert – a review

Dead Shift by John Llewellyn Probert – a review by Gary Fry

We come to horror fiction for many reasons. To have our sensibilities affronted, our metaphysical assumptions challenged, and to experience Aristotelian catharsis. But sometimes, amid all the Ligotti grumps and Aickman enigmas, it’s good simply to hang loose, have a blast, and consume something unapologetically fun.

So it goes with Probert’s latest novella, a work whose tone and approach, if you’re a fan like me, you’ll recognise from the first page. It starts with a lyrical reflection, much like something Lovecraft might have penned, but we’re soon pitched into more earthly territory, as a guy seeks to conduct magic rites in a rundown part of town.

Near this area is a hospital, and it’s here to which the action soon shifts. Our centre of focus, a doctor on the wards, carries the tale forwards, with many a wry hint about things not being quite right, and then rather more than that as all hell breaks loose.

Probert’s depiction of an entity trying to break through this tattered part of the veil between worlds is full of dripping detail and vibrant colour, as a group of medics ward off a full frontal attack on their place of work. There’s a particularly effective scene staged in the autopsy room, which builds later to a nasty set-piece involving many a revived corpse.

Probert is having fun here, that’s sure enough. His characters are self-aware enough to realise that they’re capable of hacking out genre clichés (to paraphrase, “it’s a Sumerian document with Aztec variations!”) with tongue firmly in cheek.

There’s really nothing to fault at all. Yes, the plot is simply a vehicle for gaudy imagery, the characters are broadly drawn, and the pay-off is consistent with plenty of other horror tales, but that’s all as it should be.

Probert’s depiction of Lovecraftian foes blundering through into our world, and the price which must be paid to prevent them, is never less than entertaining and a real pleasure. Solid work from our field’s mischievous jester.

You can buy the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Shift-John-Llewellyn-Probert-ebook/dp/B01BWU8DP0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456338324&sr=8-1&keywords=probert+dead+shift

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