Hiron Ennes offers a cornucopia of weird in their first novel, Leech. An unnamed doctor is sent to a remote castle in the soon-to-be-snowbound northern state of Verdira. It’s rundown, the ruling Baron is well on his way to being a cackling madman, twin teenaged girls haunt the halls, their hair entwining them into pseudo-Siamese twins, their mother is pregnant again, as slime, rot, darkness and decay seem to be the real rulers here. Our unnamed protagonist is replacing his predecessor, who died for unknown reasons. The writing is elegant and decadent.
But the weirdest star in the sky is not in the opulent setting or the unusual (to say the least!) characters. Happily, it’s in the literary arena where Ennes plants their flag. Our narrator, the storytelling voice, is the unnamed doctor, or rather, the hive mind of the parasite that uses the body – and many others – to, it tells us, keep humans safe. It sees not just what’s going on at the castle, but many other places as well. And it’s here to solve a murder that should not have been possible.
Even as Ennes leans into intelligent and imaginative literary innovation, they drive forward through layers of slime and grotesquerie that might be off-putting, were they not so elegantly (and enthusiastically) employed in the narrative. And while they’re an expert (their day job is in infectious disease) at the slime-slinging, they’re also a wonderful explorer of the conceptually grotesque. Payoff scenes, and there are many, as often include perspective turns – everyday events made really, really weird and unsettling – or upside-down ideas as well as pseudopods, tendrils emerging from orifices, and things that go squick in the night.
Happily the net effect of all this is a sort of cheerful sense of discovery as one jollies one’s way through ichor and narrative twists. There’s a dark, dark sense of humor that bubbles and pops here and there. Even when characters are mucking their way through icky sticky goo, the plot is pumping as fast as an unhinged heart. Ennes does not need to show off, they are off. Some readers might think themselves not ready for this book, but they’d be wrong. Great writing dripping in blood and slime is great writing. Reward yourself. But maybe read in a well lit, clean and orderly room that is not in a hospital.
Needless to say, Hiron Ennes is a hoot to speak with. We verged on having too much fun, which you can download from this link, or fire off below. Remember, all the blood is inside you.