Review: A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by John Hornor Jacobs

Rating: ★★★★★


The award-winning and critically-acclaimed master of horror returns with a pair of chilling tales—both never-before-published in print—that examine the violence and depravity of the human condition.

Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the evil that breeds within the human soul.

A brilliant mix of the psychological and supernatural, blending the acute insight of Roberto Bolaño and the eerie imagination of H. P. Lovecraft, The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky examines life in a South American dictatorship. Centered on the journal of a poet-in-exile and his failed attempts at translating a maddening text, it is told by a young woman trying to come to grips with a country that nearly devoured itself.

In My Heart Struck Sorrow, a librarian discovers a recording from the Deep South—which may be the musical stylings of the Devil himself.

Breathtaking and haunting, A Lush and Seething Hell is a terrifying and exhilarating journey into the darkness, an odyssey into the deepest reaches of ourselves that compels us to confront secrets best left hidden.


Thanks to Harper Voyager and the John Hornor Jacobs for an advanced reading copy of A Lush and Seething Hell in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel or author.

Note: Though the book is comprised of a novella and a short novel, I will really only be reviewing the short novel this go-round, though the extent to which I savored his writing will be plastered all over it.

I was lucky enough to have received an advanced reading copy of The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky last year and it was my favorite novella of 2018 (you can find my full review here). It was my first attempt at a work by Jacobs and ended up cementing him as one of my go-to authors for not only reading enjoyment, but writing inspiration. So when I saw that Harper Voyager was publishing a new book by Jacobs, I instantly submitted my request on Edelweiss and NetGalley. I honestly didn’t even give it a 2nd glance to see that it included TSDIITS as I was just THAT excited for it and the gorgeously creepy cover by Jeffrey Alan Love drew me in. To be honest, re-reading TSDIITS was just as enjoyable as the first go-round, and I picked up on some things I missed.

But getting to My Heart Struck Sorrow was my ultimate goal.

In short, this short novel scared the sh*t out of me. It has stayed with me for days and I keep picturing myself gripping my Kindle harder and harder as I fell deeper and deeper into Jacob’s writing and the story that unfolded. While I can’t say the beginning hooked me, it was enough of a taste to keep me wanting more. TSDIITS was sort of the same way: a slow burn; a fuse that burns down without ignition, only to explode as you begin to look away. And as the flames rise higher, you become entranced; unable to look away and hallucinating things that aren’t really there. Or are they..

Jacobs ability to dissect the human psyche through oft-times intense psychological terror and put that onto paper is immensely brilliant. The supernatural effect that the recordings have on our protagonist feel so real that they leap off of the page. What really kept me intrigued were the recordings themselves. While they started off fairly innocent, a quick turn of events sent us off course and onto the highway to hell. The Lovecraftian elements shined through in the darkest depths of the novel and lead to several scenes of pure terror; ones in which I had to click the lamp back on and steady my breathing.

All in all, I cannot recommend A Lush and Seething Hell enough. While these stories aren’t for everyone, those who love brilliant writing and slow burn horror will find themselves overjoyed which what Jacobs has given the world. I loved it and I think you will, to.

A Lush and Seething Hell hits stores on October 8th.

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