Wednesday, December 7, 2011
"King Death" by Paul Finch (Spectral Press Chapbook Vol. 4)
It's pretty hard to imagine the rampant disease and death and quite literally plagued Europe, even the world, during the 14th century. Perhaps the centuries have mythologized the Black Death to a point that it's simply hard to comprehend. Hell, judging by the degree to which the public at large loses their damn minds when the evening news mentions a flu outbreak, a bonified pandemic wouldn't have to hit us physically--the world would be crippled on a psychological level. So think back to a time when our modern medical marvels didn't exist, but an engrained acceptance of the supernatural did. What would that world really look like?
Well, Paul Finch shines a spotlight on one patch of England, as a con man roams the country side exploiting death and superstition by parading himself as King Death himself. Rodric is out to plunder a devastated territory for whatever meager gain he can get. After all, who's going to stop them when everyone is too busy dying?
That's kind of a simplistic summary of Rodric and his motives, and when he encounters and orphaned lad with a chip on his shoulder, Rodric's motives are given a real test.
The story itself weighs in around twenty pages, but that's plenty of time to set the stage and the stakes. Some of the language is a bit of a chore to get through for a dullard like me who doesn't read historical fiction that stretches much further beyond the 18th century. Fortunately, there's a glossary at the end of the book, so a quick glance at that and I was off to the races.
This is the first time I've read Paul Finch's work and walked away impressed, showing Spectral Press has a good eye for picking out short fiction to feature in their chapbook series. Paul apparently has a helluva lot more work out there, so I'm going to have to look up some more of his work down the road.