"There had been a legend, once, of a Maiden of Sorrow, who had traveled deep in the earth to the Isle of Apples to find her lover who had died a terrible death in a distant battle. When she had returned, she brought him with her and held his hand as they emerged from the winding caves into the sunlight. But when others saw the couple, they cried out in terror--for her lover's eyes were black as pitch, and he had no mouth upon his face, just a seal of flesh as if he had not formed completely upon his journey back to the land of the living. The villagers knew he was not meant to be among them, yet the Maiden would not allow him to return to the earth." - From Isis by Douglas Clegg
I can't remember the last time I read such a truly spooky book, in the classic sense of the word. Maybe Stephen King, circa the 80's (when he was stoned and wrote great horror)?
When I first held this slim volume by Douglas Clegg, only 111 pages, I honestly wondered, "Can someone really tell a good scary story in such a short time?" Since I knew I'd finish Isis within an hour or two, I figured I'd pass a Saturday morning with this illustrated hardcover book.
Let me start off by saying that I have never read anything from Douglas Clegg before; in fact, I had never heard of him before I picked up Isis. So I had no expectations, really. Just curiosity at what an author can do in 111 pages.
After finishing Isis...wow. It's hard to put in words how the tone of this book sucked me in and below its undertow of dread. I truly felt "haunted" while reading it, and even afterward.
Isis is how great horror should read (in my opinion). I gave up horror novels a long time ago because gratuitous violence and shock value of modern horror began to replace erudition, atmosphere, and gradual dread employed by masters like Poe, Hawthorne, Kafka--even early King and Koontz.
Ah, but Douglas Clegg's creepy (yet heartbreakingly compelling) Isis has reawakened in me a desire for classic horror; in fact, I look forward to reading other books by this author!
If you enjoy classic horror that explores themes such as life after death, premature resurrection, forbidden rituals, and the yearning to preserve life at all costs, you'll no doubt fall in love with Isis.
Well written and gripping, Isis delivers delicious chills (especially during the month of Halloween!), and rewards the reader with a highly satisfying tale of the supernatural.
-- Janet Boyer