Updated: Oct 11, 2021
I've been completely encumbered by the publishing process, which was twice compounded by needing to learn every aspect of it while pushing out the first book, and have been neglecting writing about my two favorite genres; horror and fantasy.
I aim to correct that over the coming months with a series for each and what better way to start than with Ballingrud. If you haven't had the pleasure, a low effort way to be introduced to Ballingrud's stories is through Hulu's Monsterland, though I much preferred reading his collection, North American Lake Monsters.
There's something about how Ballingrud constructs a story that's truly remarkable. He does all the necessary things like conjure characters who are believable/detestable/likeable, craft innovative worlds, and terrify us readers, but there's something more. I'd like to say it's his use of imagery through the proxy of simile that cinches his mastery of storytelling title.
"The atmosphere had long turned an ashy gray, as though under perpetual cloud cover, even around the city beyond the afflicted neighborhood. Elsewhere in the city, lamps burned day and night, but not in here."
This quote from the post-apocalyptic and dare I say steampunk(ish) story, "The Maw", is a prime example of what I mean. We're transported to this ashen setting nearly instantly and without consent by Ballingrud's ability to have us conjure the space in our minds.
Another from "The Maw", "Mix was seventeen years old, and anybody on the far side of fifty seemed inexcusably ancient to her, but she reckoned this man to be pretty old even by that standard."
There is a true masterclass of storytelling unfolding as you trek through the stories within Wounds and the horrors compound and intensify along the way. I believe the title for most terrifying belongs to "The Visible Filth", but there are other delights in the form of a pirate setting ("The Butcher's Table"), a bartering demon chanced upon by the daughter of a necromancer ("The Diabolist"), and the utterly charming story of ghouls at play amongst the living ("Skullpocket").
It's brilliant writing and rather elegant in the delivery of something so deeply disturbing. Ballingrud's specific ability to write with such detail without over explaining is indeed an art in and of itself and should be celebrated the best way we know how. By reading it. Use the link below to get your hands on a copy. You won't be disappointed.