Fiction Review: The Wailing

Reviewed by Anna Burwell

16119160Enter ‘Professor’ Leland, existing furtively in the chaos surrounding the Blitz with his roommate (of sorts), Rowan. Employed—as he seems to have always been—by the mysterious body known in-narrative as ‘the Management,’ Leland is charged with doing his part for the war effort in this time of crisis. In this case, eliminating something slightly less German and slightly more supernatural—an individual known only as ‘Signe.’ Armed only with a photograph of his target (along with a small arsenal, a wizard, and his taciturn roommate), Leland tracks down the mysterious Signe to do his part for King and Country.

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from a story of a scant seventy pages and some change, but I was pleasantly surprised. Naturally, it isn’t without its faults. Because it’s only seventy-six pages, the same plight that affects short stories is still applicable. That is to say, it’s very condensed, leaving precious little elbow room for particulars in regards to characterization. Unfortunately, thanks to the narrative style and the pace, it takes about half the story before The Wailing hits full stride. When it finally does reach that point, the reader can take a break for devious grins if so inclined.

It’s often been cited that leaders of writing workshops encourage the participants to be complete devils to their poor, unsuspecting creations. Graham does just that. I feel I should have seen the twist coming, but the narrative immerses you in Leland’s own thoughts, as well as his disastrous oversights. In fact, I felt it made up for the lack of surprise when the barest particulars of his backstory were revealed. Of course, one can’t simply have a dieselpunk dark fantasy set during World War II without death and destruction running rampant. I commend Graham for what [s]he did within a small span (the plodding section in the beginning aside).

The ending, however, will most likely leave the reader feeling more than a smidge unsatisfied. Strangely, it’s not so much a matter of how it ended, but what was tacked onto it. Said issue leaves the Professor’s story open-ended enough to continue (if the author should see fit), but it detracts from The Wailing as a standalone work.

Despite the somewhat disappointing finale, I enjoyed The Wailing. It’s dark and grungy, and—like many in the deiselpunk genre—the author isn’t afraid to take often-given (but hardly-heeded) advice and end on a decidedly unhappy note. I’ll forgive the death of a relatively flat minor character for the sadism and delightful writing style alone.

[4/4/13: edited to correct gendered pronoun]

Be Sociable, Share!

3 Responses to “Fiction Review: The Wailing”

    I am not a he. 😉
    Many thanks, Ms Burwell. You’ve given me a few things to consider, and with some work and extra fussing at the beta-minions, I hope the next volume will be an improvement. After all, a complete devil wouldn’t leave the poor, unsuspecting creation alone, at this point.

  2. Apologies! I’ve corrected the review to reflect your non-he-ness (hopefully correctly).

  3. Much appreciated. : )
    Gender is a questionably useful concept, anyway.

Leave a Reply