I read this book a while ago, and more recently, listened to the audio book edition (which is read by the author). I’ve been meaning to post something about it, but things with my own work have kept me preoccupied lately. Allow me a moment to make up for lost time.
You should be reading Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism. Right now. Stop reading this. Go to Amazon. Click “purchase.” And read. There, you’ll thank me later.
This book is unsettling. It’s pure atmosphere, existential dread, and quiet horror. As I said to a friend in recent weeks, the sort of horror you find in this book is like coming home to discover someone has broken in, except they haven’t stolen anything–instead they’ve left something for you to find. You don’t know what it is, but the feeling, the dread, is there. That something doesn’t belong. Something is out of place. And it can see you.
A few things you should know: It’s a collection. Some reviewers on Amazon seemed to miss that part. That said, the stories are loosely connected, in that they appear to take place in the same world. Multiple stories reference certain events, often in subtle ways. It’s one of the things I love so much about it.
This also isn’t for every horror fan. You will not find in-your-face gore. There isn’t blood running down every page. The horror to be found here is mostly in the understated language, the pauses between breaths, often between the lines in what isn’t said. You’ll find that Padgett is a master of his craft, in more ways than you think–he’s also a ventriloquist, perhaps a practitioner of Greater Ventriloquism, and by the end of the book, you’ll realize he’s been controlling you from the beginning. Every story is delightfully weird and dark, but I think my personal favorites are “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” “The Infusorium,” and “Escape to Thin Mountain.”
I truly hope we see more work from Jon soon. In the meantime, stop being a trifle and check out this collection. Listen to the audio version if you can. I can’t recommend it enough.
P.S. You can listen to “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism” right now over at Pseudopod!