The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, a reissue of Daniel Braum’s 2016 collection, is a welcome chance to revisit a dozen of his haunting, moody visions.
None of these stories begin or end neatly. The Night Marchers is full of intimate explorations of its characters’ inner lives and personal demons, and how those characters engage with the creatures and mysteries around them. They struggle with the conflict between old faiths and new religions, tradition and change, holding on and letting go. In Braum’s stories, the supernatural is often secondary to his protagonists’ earthly concerns and responsibilities. They may have to face the otherworldly, but they still have to navigate the complicated mundane world.
“Hurricane Sandrine” gives us endurance, sacrifice, and hope in the face of the inevitable.
“Mystic Tryst” shows the damage and pain caused by trying to recapture the past.
“A Girl’s Guide to Applying Superior Cat Make Up and Dispelling Commonly Found Suburban Demons” places power firmly in the hands of an adolescent learning to stand up to predators.
“Across the Darien Gap” is an in media res mission to magically protect a woman, dead or alive.
“Spark” has a man possessed and seduced by the very thing that destroyed his life.
“The Ghost Dance” pits ancient, indigenous spiritual bonds against modern psychic warfare.
“The Green Man of Punta Cabre” uses the power of ancient faith against the demons of a whitewashed religion.
“Jellyfish Moon” exposes the ugly gulf between Western capitalism and indigenous culture.
“The Night Marchers” shows a man still learning the true cost of honoring his heritage.
“The Moon and the Mesa” contrasts a man’s commitment to vengeance and greater forces with their own sense of injustice.
“The Sphinx of Cropsey Avenue” is my favorite here. Love, responsibility, self-delusion, and the incomprehensible all twist together as a man navigates his relationships with the living and the dead.
Braum is a thoughtful and subtle craftsman, and this collection is emotionally resonant with alienation and unease. The overall effect of The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales is one of melancholy, regret, and heavy responsibility rather than traditional horror. For all the divine influence and old magic that runs through theses stories, they remain as ambiguous and unpredictable as real life. I highly recommend it.