REVIEW: “Harvest Song, Gathering Song” by A.C. Wise

Review of A.C. Wise, “Harvest Song, Gathering Song”, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books, 2018): 295—313. Purchase Here. Originally published in For Mortal Things Unsung, edited by Alex Hofelich (Escape Artists, Inc.). Purchase Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

Nice bit of cosmic horror that tied me in knots. Seven veteran (and damaged) grunts and their captain go looking for some special ‘honey’ in a cave that used to be in the desert but is now in the Arctic (bloody caves, always moving around), as the military want to get hold of it. Turns out whoever has a sip of the honey can go days without feeling pain or resting, so it’s useful stuff in a conflict-riddled world. But the captain has sampled the honey before and wants it for her own reasons….

It’s a really interesting story, involving elements of addiction, PTSD, fabulism, hallucination and the bonds forged under pressure. And how you can lose yourself, and each other. There are some great moments and I really enjoyed the beginning, though I did lose the thread a bit towards the end as the honey got thicker. I like the central idea — that a species/intelligence/civilisation could build a memory, or a map, of itself using other life forms as recording devices, sacrificing them in the process (sort of, I may have missed something), but I find confusion can detract too much from the story and the horror, which is what happens here. A stimulating read overall, and probably the closest to ‘horror sci-fi’ that I’ve come across in the volume so far.

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