Wahabah Hadia Al Mu’id’s FINAL SEASON is a modestly sized short story collection of four modern twists on Lovecraftian horror. The first story, “Sir Lytton’s Confession” is a Victorian period piece detailing a man’s battle with a evil hypnotist and wizard. “Head Dreams” is all about serial killers and bad neighbors. “The Lynx” is a surprising and haunting take on the apocalypse. “Vortex” combines more apocalyptic prophecy with rather strange science fiction in the vein of “The Shadow Out of Time.”
FINAL SEASON may bill itself as Lovecraftian horror, but it only uses Lovecraft as a jumping-off point. There are references to Azathoth of the Cthulhu mythos and alien creatures who would not seem out of place in one of his stories or novellas; but, contrasting with Lovecraft’s classicist bent, these are stories very much about the modern world. Global warming plays a fairly large role in some of these stories, and the near-futures which the last two stories are set in contain all of the bleakness and cynicism which our era is increasingly teaching us to expect. Human beings, it seems, can be the real monsters, and the everyday world may be just as horrific as the unknown.
At a mere 130 or so pages, one thing that could be said about FINAL SEASON is that it probably could have been a bit longer. But these four stories are quite good enough to justify this book on their own. “Sir Lytton’s Confession,” it must be said, does drag on a little, and “The Lynx” has maybe a little too much exposition; but otherwise, these stories are more or less what they needed to be. “Vortex” combines apocalyptic melancholy with excellent sci-fi world-building (the aliens in the story are simply fascinating, as far from generic Lovecraft monsters as one can get, despite having tentacles.) “The Lynx” takes a brilliant unexpected turn which somehow makes perfect sense. “Head Dreams” contains bits of black comedy that stories like these often sorely lack.
The things that make FINAL SEASON worth reading are not just the shocks and horrors, but also the heart and humanity, the creative expression and the sheer wit of these stories. This is horror done well, as well as just fiction done well.
~Chaz Baker for IndieReader