Author: Brandon Faircloth
Incarnata is a collection of seventeen short horror stories which begin as standalone stories, and in the second half of the book start to tie together. The stories revolve around another realm called Incarnata, the portal used to cross over to it, the monsters who live there, and the people from our own world who are unlucky enough to have ties to it.
Each story is narrated in the first-person point of view. Faircloth could’ve taken more advantage of this style at the start of the book. The first few speakers sound similar, and it is sometimes difficult to determine the age or gender of the narrator from voice and context clues. In contrast, by the second half of the book, the narrators begin to have impressively distinct voices, which brings a fun element of personality into each new story. This is especially helpful in such short stories, where we don’t have much time to get to know each character.
The stories themselves are original. They use a few tropes common to the horror genre, but for the most part, the plots, images, and characters in Incarnata are refreshingly new. The world in Incarnata has a unique take on the supernatural; its monsters can take the form of almost any person or sentient object. This allows each story to be quite distinct from the next, as there is no formula that needs to be followed even in the basic world-building. The book does not shy away from the dark, the gory, or the psychologically disquieting. As a result, some of the shortest stories are the most intense.
Faircloth has managed to make this much more than a collection of short stories by tying threads of his different stories together to make them part of a larger narrative. The best part of this reading experience is seeing how all the fragments from the first section of the book start to piece together. We were left wishing this interweaving had begun even earlier in the book, leaving more time to explore the mysteries of the realm, Incarnata.
Some characters from the early stories reappear later, as the stories begin to intermingle, but by no means all of the characters show up again, and it is impossible to predict who will be important later on in the story. In addition, many of the stories end abruptly. Between these two things one is frequently left feeling at loose ends. It is up to each reader to decide for themselves if this unpredictability adds to the spooky atmosphere of the reading experience, or detracts from it.
Incarnata is good, old-fashioned, scary fun. Faircloth spins a deep, dark, twisted web for his readers to follow. These stories read a bit like campfire stories for grown-ups. A few of the stories here are deeply disturbing, which is perfect for those readers who like to be left feeling unsettled by their horror fiction.
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