Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ghoul's Night Out

The first copy of Brian McNaughton's The Throne of Bones I got in the mail from Amazon was damaged. Whomever had opened the box from Terminal Fright Publications had been a little too zealous with their box cutter and delivered a nice vertical slash to nearly the entire length of the cover. They sent me a replacement but the image of that disfigured dust jacket lingers. 

There's a lot to this book that will remain with me for a very long time; McNaughton's exquisite writing and the marvelously collapsing world of Seelura. I'll also remember the depths of depravity it explores. There are several graphic rapes, necrophilia, necrophagy, necromancy, and lots and lots of blood splattered across the landscape. For all its beauty, the book is laced with poison. 

I think even the most avid defenders of the violence and whatnot in books like A Game of Thrones might have trouble with the worst bits in The Throne of Bones. But then McNaughton never claims he's just showing us how corrupt and sadistic the world really is. ToB is part of a great tradition of dark and brooding art, fascinated by corruption (physical) and death. It's not looking to be defended, just to exist as a piece of art that just happens to be about a black and gruesome world.

I'm not interested in reading porn, be it erotic or torture. The thing is, ToB isn't either one. I appreciate the tremendous artistry involved in even the creepiest moments but it's still thoroughly unpleasant at times. There's an almost gleefulness to McNaughton's creepy inventiveness to what he does to and with many of his characters, but it never becomes sadistic. It's just I felt a little tainted after reading some of the book.

In the end, I think every fan of dark fantasy should try the book. That McNaughton's dead and never going to write more of these stories saddens me. But I also want to warn everyone picking it up that parts will leave them queasy. I guess that's what makes it such a powerful work of art.

This week's music was a bunch of heavy stuff interwoven by all the acoustic tracks from the classic Sabbath albums from the seventies. Very good mix for writing the review.

"Laguna Sunrise" by Black Sabbath

"Future Days" by Nebula (live)


  1. I've never read any of Brian McNaughton's work, but I'm tempted after reading the above post and that over at BG. It sounds as if his work touches upon some of the same territory as the Marquis de Sade, though de Sade shied away from fantastical works, almost always basing his writings in the real world and without any supernatural elements. Unfortunately, de Sade is remembered for all the vile stories he wrote, but not for the philosophical underpinnings of those stories.

  2. Interesting thought. I think of this book being in line with things like Vathek or CAS without the constraints on sexual or violent material. I don't think there's much underlying philosophy here.