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The Sand Dwellers

Adam Niswander

Fedogan & Bremer

US Hardcover First

ISBN 1878252291

264 pages; $27.00

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2001


Horror, Science Fiction

Since the term 'splatterpunk' was first coined, sex and violence have too often been the first refuge of the lazy horror writer. In 'The Sand Dwellers', Adam Niswander rewinds the clock, and takes us back to a time when terror and adventure were the primary components of horror. 'The Sand Dwellers' combines a Lovecraftian sensibility with some modern technology and comes up a with a page-turning delight that is charmingly chaste.

Set in the Southwestern desert, as are all of Niswander's novels, 'The Sand Dwellers' is full of the stuff of Charles Fort, and his latter day followers, 'The Fortean Times'. Within a few short chapters, we get men in black, black helicopters, and even an underground race that has a lot in common with the Deros, those deranged robots created by Richard Shaver. But Niswander keeps the mystery of exactly what is going on expertly at arm's length, even as he echoes 'Doctor Strangelove' and Arthur Conan Doyle.

As in his other novels, Niswander pays particular attention to developing the characters of his monsters and their helpers. By providing the reader with a clear insight into the motivations of his antagonists, to the point of making them sympathetic, he makes his novel far more three-dimensional than the usual 'monster-monster-kill-kill' gorefest. And, as in his other novels, we are not talking reminiscent of Lovecraft, but Lovecraftian. That's an important difference to a large segment of readers who will not be disappointed. Niswander delivers without the heavy-handedness that often bogs down latter-day Lovecraftian fiction.

On an additional note, this novel is actually rather Lovecraftian in the awkwardness of its characters as they approach the subject of sex. They're geeks, freaks, and loners (not unlike many of the readers), so we're spared the usual egregiously explicit encounter that seems de rigeur in the supermarket stands. 'The Sand Dwellers' is an entertaining, exciting novel is entirely devoid of the usual signposts of the lowest common denominator.