Written by: Josh Black
A few stories into Every House Is Haunted, Rogers’ debut collection, I thought I had it pegged. A little bit of Matheson, some Lovecraft, a dash of Frank Capra (yes, you read that correctly. Don’t worry, I’ll explain). Moving further into the nooks, crannies and dark corners of the haunts contained herein, I came to appreciate the sheer range of Ian’s imagination and his skill as a weaver of words. If you want something easily consumed, labeled and set aside, you’d best look elsewhere. These stories dig under the skin, wriggle to the bone and stick with you.
The great unknown within almost all of the stories here is death. Whether characters are trying to cheat it, ease the transition into it, glimpse beyond it or skirting its edges precariously, death is ever present. Despite this, Rogers writes his characters and situations with true compassion. It’s not really a sentimental thing (this is why Capra came to mind at first), so much as a positive attitude in the face of man’s oft-cited greatest fear.
The angles Rogers takes to examine mortality and whatever may come after are as varied as they are fascinating, each story having its own particular spin. Standouts include
A series of increasingly unbalanced journal entries written by a man secluded in a warehouse as unspeakable things encroach outside.
The Rifts Between Us
A surreal and melancholy tale featuring a group of intrepid explorers who traverse the cusp of death, quite literally.
The House on Ashley Avenue
A deeply unnerving novelette in which the haunted house is as much a character as the people in it.
Although the stories in this collection aren’t explicitly connected for the most part, some feature an organization of paranormal investigators called the Mereville group. These were the ones that left me wanting more, if only because the mythos is so intriguing. Given the allusive way they’re written (it seems Rogers knows a lot more about this group than what we get here), I’d venture that we’ll be reading more about the Mereville group in books to come.
Even the unconnected stories here have some common themes and details, and come across as being pieces of a greater whole, a rich metaphysical tapestry. I enjoyed them all, and would recommend Every House Is Haunted wholeheartedly to anyone who likes their horror quiet, subdued and thoughtful. This is a highly auspicious debut, and a damned fine bunch of tales.