By Hiron Ennes
Author: Hiron Ennes
Publisher: Tor Books
- ISBN: 9781250811196
- Published: September 2022
- Pages: 322
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 04/10/2022
- Language: English
We have all come to loath the Flu virus and its even worse cousin, but how are we as humans to prevent the spread of life? It will find a way. For mammals it is making babies, for a virus it is infiltrating a host and multiplying, then moving onto the next host. The virus does not care that it destroys the shell if it can move onto another host. In Hiron Ennes’ Leech we follow a different form of life, one that is sentient across bodies as it takes humans as a host in a symbiotic relationship. All is well until a new entity is discovered that is not compatible to humans or the parasite living within them.
The future is bleak, humans have survived but life is hard. Society has returned to a more feudal system with powerful Barons running local areas. These Barons can afford the best medicine and for that you need to hire a member of The Insitute. Unbeknownst to most people, the members of The Institute are the same entity that can communicate across bodies. It has leeched onto humans and has made itself useful. When one of its hosts dies, a replacement is sent. The investigation will discover a new variant that may just destroy The Institue and humans alike.
Leech is a wonderful bubbling cauldron of ideas. Told from the point of view of a parasite living among humans, it feels like a horror. The idea of losing your essence to another entity is horrible, but that is the perspective of a human, not the parasite. To it, we are just a vessel. The horror is for The Institute. This being has lived for hundreds of years and plans to continue living with its parts spread far and wide. For the first time it fears. A new rival has appeared that could wipe it out. Horror told from the monster’s viewpoint.
Horror is only one element of Leech’s tapestry; it is also steam punk and post apocalypse. Ennes creates a dark and grubby future that evokes Brazil and Dune, but also plays on the grittier medieval dramas. The core of the book is set in a remote Baron’s stronghold. The Baron holds his family in contempt, and they must live under his rule. The new physician, sent from The Institute, must weave the politics of this small court while investigating the new creature that has stirred in the nearby mines.
The leech is not the only strange thing in Enne’s world. The people who have survived since societies' collapse are changed. Their offspring often mutated and unable to survive. Humans are living their last decades on Earth and The Insitute work as physicians not to help humans, but to assure that there is a plentiful supply of hosts for as long as possible.
The book is more than one type of horror. The start is internal turmoil as the new physician faces their own mortality. As the book progresses it engages in more body horror, as both forms of leech take control of humans the only way they know how. Leech is an enigmatic horror novel that is also science fiction. Ennes creates a dark undulating world close to the brink of madness. The reader is transported there, not to be told a story from a human view, but from that of the creature. A refreshing and different take on the genre.
Written on 4th October 2022 by Sam Tyler .