Review: “Children of the Fang” by John Langan

4 of 5 stars.

This novella unspools in a series of compelling, generation-skipping vignettes, building the horror that comes with unaddressed family secrets. The stern, private grandfather stays largely secluded in his second floor living space since the death of his wife [heart attack / heart ache] following on the heels of the untimely disappearance of his favorite son, Jim. He isn’t kind to his other son’s wife whose family lives on the first floor. That son tiptoes lightly always trying to stay on his father’s good side. The grandkids, Rachel and Josh, remain on edge ready for another reprimand from the grandfather.

Rachel is nearly blind, but in a compelling blend of horror, bravery and trepidation, she’s come to the basement to bust into her grandfather’s triply-locked freezer . . .

In an attic chest, Rachel and her protective younger brother Josh have found a series of half-destroyed tape recorded interviews between their grandfather and Uncle Jim from decades earlier, mere weeks before Jim disappeared forever. There’s no hint to tension between the two, despite the persistent rumor that Jim ran off to escape the overbearing old man. The tapes reveal a disjointed tale of the grandfather as a young man working in the Saudi Arabian oil fields. He and a partner had stumbled across a sand-buried and forgotten ancient city filled with strange symbols and writings and eggs?! One egg is intact, and coated in a strange substance that upon contact gives the young man lucid visions of a bygone society of non-humans . . .

Thanksgiving rolls around, and Rachel’s home from law school. Josh is reluctantly home from college and nursing the wounds of a failed college romance. Emboldened, he disturbs the family peace with accusations against the grandfather, calling out the grandfather’s hypocritical defense of family. When he leaves, like Uncle Jim before him, it’s for the long term. Together, the grandkids had unearthed some of the grandfather’s secrets in the attic chest, now alone Rachel faces the basement freezer . . .

“Children of the Fang” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Lovecraft’s Monsters, ed. Ellen Datlow (Tachyon Publications).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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