A refreshingly weird blend of southern gothic and dark fantasy.
AMDEN BOG is a twisted maze of interconnected tales concerning the denizens of the titular Bog, a backwater swamp town where people farm fungus and get stoned on the chemical by-products of dying frogs.
This book is very innovative and I enjoyed it a lot. Structurally it is reminiscent of Brian McNaughton’s THRONE OF BONES, consisting of a number of interconnected stories woven around a central idea. In this case the central idea appears to be the Bog itself, a gloriously sinister locale loaded with gothic atmosphere. This structure, reminiscent of a maze, a knot, or a tangle of thorns, is a refreshing diversion from many of the standard linear fantasy narratives.
In terms of atmosphere it reminded me of southern gothic stories like “Jean-ah Poquelin” by George Washington Cable, or Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” This combination of southern gothic and dark fantasy is something I’ve never seen before, and the whole effort felt pleasingly unique. The world-building is first-class. Amden Bog is a very well-realized setting, with a unique atmosphere and a sense of breathing reality about it.
Thematically the story is very dark, with all the gothic trappings – madness, murder, horror, and depravity. Wry doses of dark humour prevent the story from descending into portentous grimdark territory, whilst also lending the narrative a sense of verisimilitude that can only arise from the darkly ridiculous. Like McNaughton, David Rose is fairly ruthless with his characters, thrusting them into various sinister and ironic fates. AMDEN BOG is gleefully nihilistic. There is very little emotional succour to be had here, save perhaps for the cynic or the demon.
In terms of the prose and dialogue, David Rose has clearly taken pains to craft a unique product. The residents of Amden Bog have their own idiosyncrasies of speech that makes them feel even more unique, and the narration is filled with novel compositions demonstrating a dedication to linguistic creativity and the poetry of prose. My only real criticism of the book is that the prose can sometimes feel too ornate, convoluted, and idiosyncratic. This is a matter of personal taste: I believe it is usually preferable to sacrifice style for the sake of clarity.
Stylistic quibbles aside, I greatly enjoyed this book overall and look forward to reading Rose’s next book, THE SCROLLS OF SIN.