Alabaster: Pale Horse by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Hopefully, you enjoyed Dark Horse’s “Alabaster: Wolves” miniseries that came out two years ago. I figured I’d never get a chance to read Caitlin R. Kiernan’s original short stories about Dancy Flammarion, the weird Southern monster-hunting possibly-crazy albino girl who starred in the series. But as it turned out, Dark Horse decided to collect Kiernan’s previous tales in this nice softcover.
So we get a series of six stories, most of them fairly well connected to each other, covering the weirdness and terror of Dancy’s life from her childhood to her monster-stalking young adulthood. She meets up with were-creatures, vampires, angels, demons, and things that are so much worse. And for the most part, she’s very, very lucky. Things are just not very easy for Dancy Flammarion. She’s an albino walking around in the hot Georgia sun, every monster in the state knows who she is and wants revenge on her because she keeps killing monsters — even though everything she meets tends to be a lot tougher than she is.
Dancy’s the star, but a very strong supporting character is the Deep South atmosphere. It’s blazingly hot everywhere, even in the shade. Almost every location is run-down and filthy and corrupted and falling apart, aside from the occasional vampire-infested mansion. Everyone’s a monster, especially the people. In fact, just about the only really decent people are animals who Dancy may be hallucinating.
Verdict: Thumbs up. I really was kinda overjoyed when I saw this in the local shop. I’d never dreamed there was a chance I’d get to see all the Dancy Flammarion stories all in one place, and I loved the comic series so much, this one was kinda a zero-hesitation buy.
Dancy’s an outstanding character — quite clearly insane, except for the fact that she keeps fighting monsters and talking to dogs and angels. Unless those are just normal people she’s killing. She comes across as low-grade white trash, broken inside, wandering aimlessly and miserably around the South, getting screamed at by the voices inside her head. But she’s got a weirdly hyper-moral core of her personality — she doesn’t seem to particularly hate monsters — in fact, she generally acts like she’d just as soon leave them alone, especially because they keep trying to kill her.
But she keeps going, partly because her angel keeps screaming at her, partly because she’s on a holy crusade. Dancy’s a doomed character — you just can’t imagine any way she could ever get out of this life or find happiness or even survive much past the next year or so. But it’s absolutely clear that she’d keep right on going, no matter what, because she can’t imagine life without her crusade.
And one more point to recommend this one — it ends with a fantastically creepy afterword from Kiernan recounting a moment of her life along a Georgia highway that helped inspire the horrors of the Dancy stories. Don’t skip the afterword. It’s very good and very spooky.
If you like wonderfully visceral, grim, dirty horror with a sweet Southern twang, starring an amazingly, awesomely weird female protagonist, you’ll definitely want to pick this up.