5 of 5 stars.
A series of vignettes and character studies from August 1925 in coastal Massachusetts coalesce into a supernatural tale of longing and loneliness. This tale elaborates on the 1936 Lovecraft novella “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” with a centennial update on the forgotten town showing residual affects on the residents that escaped the initial dysmorphic, anti-evolutionary transformations.
Each of the shown characters, cat-owners–all, have strained relationships. The spinster Babson sisters bicker across their shared bedroom. The grocer laments his son’s eminent leaving of the family business. The near-suicidal WWI vet thinks on his broken body and war-slain brother. The secretly-lesbian amateur fossil collector considers her strange anthromorph-like local finds. The heroin addict avoids suicide with yet another fix.
A richly creative, bizarre transition follows the character vignettes depicting the tenuous balance between land & sea, earth & moon:
. . . Earth was kissed by errant Theia, daughter of Selene [four and a half billion years ago] . . . Theia was obliterated for her reckless show of affection and reborn as a cold, dead sphere damned always to orbit her intended paramour; she a planet no more, but only a satellite never again permitted to touch the Earth. And so it is that the moon, spurned, scarred, diminished, has always haunted the sky, gazing spitefully across more than a million miles of near vacuum, hating silently–but not entirely powerless.
A final scene emerges with all the human characters seen in the periphery and their cats congregating against a rising sea-surge to hold the line . . .
“The Cats of River Street (1925)” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Sirenia Digest #102. This tale is highly recommended. Previously, I’ve reviewed two other tales by Kiernan which both brilliantly portray loneliness, longing and ostracism through their use of fantasy:
“The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean”–4 stars
“The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings”–5 stars
[Check out my other reviews here.]