Every Moon Atrocious
Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet
As part of #DemainDecember on this blog, I’m reviewing as many titles from Horror publisher Demain Publishing as I can in December. Because, quite frankly, nothing typifies the spirit of Christmas more to me than seven days (at least!) of high-quality short-form Horror fiction encompassing a number of different subgenres. So over the coming week, as well as any other reviews I manage to write up, I’ll be reviewing some of the Horror, Sci-Fi (and Crime) novellas recently released by Demain, as well as a number of titles in their excellent Short Sharp Shocks! imprint.
Even though I’ve read it through several times now, I’m not entirely certain what to think of Every Moon Atrocious. I genuinely don’t know what, exactly, had happened by the end of the book, and I think I would struggle exactly to describe the precise chain of events that occurred. However, unlike many books where I’ve been tempted to write the above sentences, this isn’t a case where Every Moon Atrocious is a terrible book, or a poorly written one, or one that I couldn’t bear finishing. Quite the reverse, in fact, because as far as I can tell this is what the reader is supposed to feel like after finishing it. At least, I really hope so; otherwise I’m going to feel even stupider than I do at the moment. The reason for my lack of firm understanding is hinted at by the monochrome image that forms the centrepiece of another one of Adrian Baldwin’s excellent and distinctive covers for the Short! Sharp Shock! series: a vertical bank of CCTV cameras attached to a pole and observing the public from some on-high point, stoically, silent and eternally monitoring every move that week make in modern society.
Because you see, those cameras and others like them are at the heart of the plot and the overarching thematic structure of Every Moon Atrocious. A woman living in Calais called Celestine Theret has been murdered, and the local police begin an investigation, pulling in suspects and reviewing footage and potential evidence. CCTV camera footage, interview video transcripts, phone answering machine messages and other communication mediums are used to bring together a mass of evidence, which is used to propel the narrative. My utter sense of confusion and disorientation, however, is generated by Jouvet’s intriguing decision to use these pieces of evidence to create a non-sequential narrative that takes us on a deliberately disordered path through the investigation into the murder and the possible motives of the key suspects. As a result, it really does demand multiple re-reads to get a full understanding of the key events in the narrative and what actually happened where and when during the events that led to the murder.
The murder itself is certainly a horrific act, but to me the real horror is almost an existential one that is invoked by Jouvet’s use of these different forms of media as a framing device for the narrative. Jouvet highlights the astoundingly high number of ways in which our actions, habits and undertakings in public (and so often in private) are recorded by those in authority, or can be accessed by those authorities. It results in a bewildering array of mediums that can be interrogated for various reasons – including legitimate ones such as investigating a murder – without your permission, oversight or often even explicit knowledge and consent. That’s genuinely unsettling and even quietly horrifying to me, and seems to be thematic core of Every Moon Atrocious.
Engaging, thought-provoking and challenging in equal measures, Every Moon Atrocious may have left me confused and uncertain of what had occurred when I finished reading it, but I would argue that is where its genius actually lies. It invokes a sort of existential horror, focusing on the intrusion into our public and private personas and lives by surveillance equipment and the broad-brush tactics of the state, and where that might inevitably lead. It has stayed in my head for a very, very long time after originally reading it, and believe it will do the same for anyone else fortunate enough to read it.