What Moves the Dead

by T. Kingfisher | Horror |
ISBN: 9781250830814 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 12/4/2023
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, December 4, 2023
I got this softcover at a local Barnes and Noble, for another release copy.

I've loved Kingfisher's work for a long time now, including her previous novels that re-imagined classic horror tales in a modern setting, The Twisted Ones and The Hollow Places. This one's a riff on Poe's Fall of the House of Usher - with some stealth-nods to Prisoner of Zenda thrown in!

Here, the protagonist is one Alex Easton, born with a female body but choosing to become a "sworn soldier". (Not every country has the same level of acceptance, so there are several passages about gender-politics-and-etiquette between Alex and other characters. Oh, and starting on page 22 there's a mini-dissertation from Alex about Gallacia and its unusual - even in this setting - array of gender-neutral pronouns; different ones for children and adults, and the special set for the soldiers, ka and kan: "You show up for basic training and they hand you a sword and a new set of pronouns.")

That all provides some intriguing character background, as laid over the tale of Alex's old friend Madeline Usher and her brother Roderick, in their dismal, crumbling house-by-the-tarn. Additional characters include a roving British mycologist (the first person Alex meets, and one whose expertise becomes key in untangling the mystery of the Usher fragility - and of Madeline's increasingly bizarre behavior), an American doctor whose initial reluctance to believe the growing evidence was eventually forced to give way, and Angus, the Ushers' much-harried Old Family Retainer.

The cover-art actually gives away some of the plot, what with the poor hare infested with fungi. How that ties in to the Usher family makes up a good part of the story, which turns into more of a medical mystery than I'd expected from the setup.

Despite the overall grim tone of the story, it's not without its more humorous moments; at one point Alex and Angus conspire to get some good beef to the family larder, despite Roderick's reluctance - Alex reports shamefacedly that ka has accidentally shot a cow, which the farmer made kan field-dress while agreeing to accept payment for the loss. The story makes Roderick laugh - the main purpose - and he agrees to accept the supply of beef. But will it be in time to help Madeline?

As it happens, it's the farmer whose cow was part of the plot that tips Alex off about the bizarre behavior of the hares near the house; they sit and stare in an un-hare-like way, and sometimes when they try to move it's as if they can't control their own bodies. Some kind of illness, clearly, but not one that's known to anyone in the area. And then the sleepwalking Madeline begins to move oddly, just the way the hares do...

Eerie descriptions, building tension, even a touch of eldritch horror - but with an oddly sympathetic note. Another intriguing Kingfisher tale!

[Fungi have been turning up in my reading - and viewing - lately; the nonfiction book Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake is a fascinating look at real-world fungi and the variety of abilities they have - including the creepy zombie-ant fungus. And the "The Last of Us" TV series, inspired by the videogame, features a fungus-induced zombie apocalypse. So Kingfisher's fungi are practically in fashion {wry grin}.]

[There's a TV Tropes page on the novel, with some interesting tidbits, but beware of spoilers.]

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at LFL [OBCZ] - New Searles Rd, #46 in Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, December 7, 2023

Released 2 mos ago (12/8/2023 UTC) at LFL [OBCZ] - New Searles Rd, #46 in Nashua, New Hampshire USA


I left this book in my Little Free Library; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

** Released for the 2023 D for December challenge. **

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, February 25, 2024
I'm reclaiming this from my LFL, as it's gone unchosen for a while. The sequel is out now, so I may save this to re-read before I read the next book.

Released 2 days ago (2/29/2024 5:00 PM UTC) at Little Free Library, Massachusetts Ave. in Lunenburg, Massachusetts USA


I left this book in the Little Free Library on this cold, windy day; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in MA here.]

Released for:

** 2024 Great Backyard Bird Count challenge, for the author's name. [See GBBC info here.] **

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