REVIEW: “Endoskeletal” by Sarah Read

Review of Sarah Read, “Endoskeletal”, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books, 2018): 173—187. Purchase Here. Originally published in Black Static #59. Purchase Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis.

I read Endoskeletal when it was first published in Black Static and thought it was excellent, so was pleased to see it included in this Best Horror of the Year anthology. The story centres on Ashley and her inadvertent discovery of Palaeolithic remains in a Swiss alpine cave; human bones broken in odd ways, skulls with strange canopic jars between their teeth. Ashley quickly becomes fascinated by these remains and the significance they might hold, particularly given the portrayal of a many-eyed shadow creature carved into the cave walls. As her obsession grows we begin to understand more about the creature, the remains and the nature of sacrifice.

It’s a great story with an adventurous feel to it, and the archaeological elements are extra seasoning for a fan of such tales (as I am). There are some interesting elements explored, including Ashley’s struggle against the power-holding males in charge of the site and access permissions. I was a bit unsure of Ashley’s background, as her reason for being at the cave initially is to study bears (I’m assuming palaeoecologically) so her knowledge of and enthusiasm for anthropology/palaeoanthropology seemed a bit of a jump. I was also slightly sceptical that the (male, Swiss) field assistant was unwilling to stop Ashley (a visiting and ultimately disempowered researcher) from essentially looting a pristine archaeological site, though perhaps in Swiss academia academic rank and authority are more hierarchical than in my experience! But minor questions aside, it’s an excellent and original story and a stand-out of the volume for me. More please.