We Are Here To Hurt Each Other by Paula Ashe
ASIN : B09T2G4K2Y
Publisher : Nictitating Books; 1st edition (21 Feb. 2022)
Language : English
Review by Kit Power
So, author Paula D. Ashe and I have been Facebook friends for some years, and I greatly enjoy her online presence. So please read this review with that knowledge upfront, but also this; friend or stranger, I never review work I don’t a) finish and b) enjoy. So.
We Are Here To Hurt Each Other is a collection of short horror stories of quite extraordinary depth, variety, and power. Throughout, Ashe deploys a number of different voices and prose styles, all with an expert eye to what method will best deliver the narrative. So, for example, we get Exile In Extremis, in which a journalist exchanges emails with a source on a recent story, the tension building as we release alongside that journalist that ‘ELLE’ knows a lot more about the events then she is comfortable admitting. It’s really a masterclass in voice (or voices, as the two characters have very distinct writing styles), but also in the power of using a ‘found document’ approach (especially as the urgency builds and they move to an online chat format).
Elsewhere, Jackeline Laughs Last In The Gaslight manages the seemingly impossible task of finding something new to say about the Jack the Ripper murders, in the process presenting a brilliantly, coldly excoriating vivisection of the iniquities that Victorian England were riven by – the ferocity perfectly matches the subject matter, the fury all the more potent for it’s coldness and precision. Magnificent.
Because You Watched is one of a couple of stories in the collection that deal with themes of childhood abuse and survivor guilt; the horror here is extreme, and uncompromising, but what makes it work, really land and make this reader squirm, is the underpinning psychological realism that drives the characters towards a gut wrenching climax with the kind of force that recalls Thomas Harris at his very best. In some ways twinned with this, Bereft is an absolutely shattering piece that tackles two of the biggest taboos in horror literature with such tenderness and delicacy that it becomes painfully moving. An absolutely extraordinary, exquisite piece of writing.
The Mother Of All Monsters I was familiar with from its previous, standalone incarnation. In the story, Ashe deploys the diary format to deliver a very effective set of shocks to the system, again reflecting upon complicity and familial ties, and with yet another sledgehammer of an ending. And the closing tale, Telesignatures from a Future Corpse, is an absolutely phenomenal piece, tackling a brilliant, complex piece of mythos via the perspective of an investigating detective. This piece really showcases once more Ashe’s enormous skill with voice and character; I’m a big fan of crime drama, and I’ve read a lot of pieces containing investigating detectives, and this short story is right up there, for me, in terms of characterisation and pacing.
Ashe demonstrates many of the traits I associate with all-time great horror authors; she’s got King’s instinctive grasp of character and dialogue, Barker’s sheer scope and scale of imagination (alongside a surefootedness in rendering the fantastic plausible and grounded), and an extraordinary grasp of both the heights and depths humans are capable of that brings to mind Iain Banks or Poppy Z Brite (and, like all four, Ashe has a willingness to just Go There that is breathtakingly brave). That said, I don’t want to give the impression that she’s merely a tribute act; Ashe is very much her own writer, and part of what makes this collection such a thrill to read, beyond the sheer brilliance of it, is the feeling of discovering a new, extraordinarily powerful voice. This is exemplified in the closing essay, which manages to be one of the best (and most succinct) pieces of non-fiction writing about horror as a genre that I’ve read in the last decade.
The recent entirely deserved Bram Stoker Nomination and Shirley Jackson Award wins probably render this review redundant, but if for some reason you had any lingering doubts, please dispel them – Paula D. Ashe is The Real Deal, this is an exceptional and brilliant collection, and if you have so much as the slightest love for horror of the more extreme variety, this belongs in your collection.
We Are Here To Hurt Each Other by Paula Ashe
SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARD WINNER!
BRAM STOKER AWARD NOMINATED
With these twelve stories Paula D. Ashe takes you into a dark and bloody world where nothing is sacred and no one is safe. A landscape of urban decay and human degradation, this collection finds the psychic pressure points of us all, and giddily squeezes. Try to run, try to hide, but there is no escape: we are here to hurt each other.
CONTENT WARNINGS FOUND INSIDE BOOK
“My god, this book Where do I even begin? The exquisite language. The devastation. The slow, creeping dread. Truly masterful. I’m a new and devoted fan of Paula D. Ashe.”
—Eric LaRocca author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke
“Gooey, gory and utterly mesmerizing, Paula D. Ashe’s debut short fiction collection reads like the sloppy love-child of Clive Barker and David Cronenberg–Barker for sheer gruesomely sensual intoxication, the language of blood-soaked angels, Cronenberg for bodies flipped inside-out and messed around back-to-front like suppurating biological Rubik’s Cubes. I want to study it; I wish I’d written it.”
—Gemma Files, author of In That Endlessness, Our End and Experimental Film