You ever read a story that leaves you a little shaken?
A story that prompts your mind to wander into the deepest and darkest questions of our existence?
Well after reading Alan Baxter's "In Vaulted Halls Entombed" (published in the awesome anthology SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest) I found myself pondering the terrifying possibilities of beings so far beyond my comprehension slumbering here on earth that it kinda freaked me out a little.
For weeks afterwards.
With In Vaulted Halls Entombed Baxter has produced the kind of story that resonates and crawls into the deepest and darkest recesses of your mind and simply refuses to budge. It has everything. Military action, unimaginable horrors crawling in the shadows, and an overriding sense of doom and dread that is layered within an environment that just feels wrong (in a good way). And as the soldiers drop one by one, and that overriding sense of hopelessness and fear sets in, you realise you are reading something masterful and brilliant in its purpose.
Cosmic horror is meant to make you uncomfortable (again, in a good way) and to challenge the base upon which you shape your existence. As you read it you are meant to be on edge and feel like a wounded animal that is being stalked by an apex predator in the shadows. You can't see threat, but deep down you know it's there.
In Vaulted Halls Entombed does this in magnificent fashion. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes your skin cold and clammy, and your heartbeat irregular. And as you read it your adrenal system works overtime keeping your body flooded and ready for that fight or flight moment that you just know is coming. Combine all of this with cracking moments of military action you have an absolute winner of a story. It is simply stunning in its direction and execution. I adored it, and was left wanting more despite the fact that my balls had crawled up into my abdomen in fear by the end (please tell me there will be more Alan... please...)
Even now, weeks later (as I write this short review), I get cold chills thinking about what those soldiers found down in that deep dark hole. It was just... not right.
Baxter has taken what Lovecraft started and made it better. Military horror at its absolute finest.
5 out 5 stars.
In Vaulted Halls Entombed can be found within SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest (Cohesion Press). I highly recommend that you purchase it as soon as possible, as it is filled with so much other military horror goodness as well as Alan's story.