Equoid by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh my god that was a sharp one. I'm bowled over, not only because this was easily the best Bob Howard story I've read, including all of the novels, all of which I love, but because the tale was freaking sharp. There wasn't an ounce of fat on it, and it drove me into a shivering horror state even as I was expecting great hyperbole, great dry wit, and a character I love. What I didn't expect was the absolute chittering horror that I felt as I read it.
It wasn't HP Lovecraft's deathbed confession or purple prose, although that certainly got to me in the end. It wasn't the singularly nightmarish aspects of the unicorns, either, although it came DAMN CLOSE. It was the idea of all those little girls playing with all those little ponies in the boarding school. That got me. That got me to my core.
I had to put the novella down for a few minutes to fucking recover.
Now, I'm going to admit something. I have been a long time fanboy of Mr. Stross, and I devour all his works like they're candy and get super giddy over the idea of the Laundry Files and wish to the sweet heavens that the Eschaton series didn't have that fatal flaw that prevents him from writing more.
I'm predisposed to give him the benefit of lots of leeway because of the power of my never ending fanboy powers.
Well, I'm telling you all, right now, that I'm forgoing all rights and status of being a fanboy and saying that this little gem of a story stands mightily and beautifully on its own without any kind of preamble, preconception, or good-will. More than that, I'm tempted to rank it up there with the very best novellas I've ever read. It has all the markings of the best. Tight story, great characters, and IMPACT. Oh god, the impact. I'm still scared shitless, and I'm an old hand at enjoying horror. What's more, this is great SF, too.
And what's more, it won last year's Hugo for best Novella.
I can't believe, with all my fanboy powers for both Hugos and Stross, I am JUST NOW getting around to reading this fantastic little gem. Maybe I ought to let one of those snails crawl onto my hand. I probably deserve it, now.
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