A Lush and Seething Hell | John Hornor Jacobs | Rougeski Review

A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs is indeed a lush and seething read for those who lust after delicious prose and a leisured literary journey toward madness, the inexorable threat that many fear because it lingers nestled in their unconscious minds, patiently waiting to reveal itself.  Fans of H.P. Lovecraft and Ramsey Campbell will love A Lush and Seething Hell.  While most cosmic threats exist in the exterior, poised to ensnare the unwary individual, Jacobs’s threats could be considered more frightening because each is an internal, ineffable potentiality of the human condition.

A Lush and Seething Hell is composed of two masterfully paired novellas.  The cosmic menaces in the set of novellas resonate with each other like entrained tuning forks.  The first tale feeds on the impact of words and their unquestionable ability to warp reality, to twist minds—the second on the magical, almost ceremonial nature of music.  Both tales are driven by characters possessed by the insidious, burrowing sovereignty of guilt.  The novellas display an enchanting sense of place made real by organic metaphors and musical language that color each moment with magic.  Touches of dialect create authenticity without insult.  The characters are so real and hypnotic that they will pair with readers and drag them along on their decent into the abyss.  Some characters that appear real might in truth be tulpas, self-created manifestations, or thought forms, thus blending the apparent world with the supernatural.

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky takes place in an imaginary country in South America.  The setting, language, characters, and politics are exquisitely drawn and harken back to the magical realism of Jorge Borges.

Rafael Avendaño, a mysterious author who prefers to be called The Eye, lures a young university lecturer into his sphere of influence.  Before long, Isabel’s life changes when Avendaño embarks on a dangerous quest into his past, leaving her to oversee his apartment.  She soon begins to read a text that Avendaño had been translating.  It is filled with arcane symbols and profane content.  Isabel follows Avendaño’s lead and becomes the next translator, which compels her to initiate her own journey of transformation.  Jacobs dares to go one step beyond Roland Barthes to coerce Isabel and the reader into becoming something much more than co-authors.

Of his missing eye, Avendaño says:  ”It had seen too much, so I plucked it out.”

Harlan Parker: A Dream of Mother Chautauqua takes place in the American South.  Steeped in Southern lore, this tale narrates the journey of Cromwell, an employee of The Library of Congress, who must travel to the home of a music aficionado who has willed his recordings and fortune to the Folklore Center.  Mirroring the first tale, Cromwell finds Harlan Parker’s research journal and becomes entranced by it and fixates on a specific traditional song—Stagger Lee.  Cromwell’s continued research reveals that each new version he discovers, the lyrics grows darker, and so does he.

“Pain becomes an offering and sacrifice becomes a beacon.”

A Lush and Seething Hell is a masterpiece, a unique and frightening glimpse into the danger and addicting power of obsession.  It deserves multiple close readings, each of which will no doubt unearth new, stunning revelations and uncertainties.

A Lush and Seething Hell belongs in hard copy on the shelf of every enlightened reader and comes very highly recommended.

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A Lush and Seething Hell

Book Title: A Lush and Seething Hell

Book Author: John Hornor Jacobs

Book Format: EBook

Publisher: Harper Collins


  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Complexity
  • Literary Quality
  • Setting
  • Originality
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