This review is by Peter Rawlik, author of The Peaslee Papers, Reanimators, and more.
There are books, dozens at least, thousands I suspect, that for one reason or another I decide not to read. Malinae, a short novel by Josh Schlossberg – an author I am wholly unfamiliar with – is a book if encountered in the wild I would not have given a second look at. The cover art is a rather nondescript almost silhouette of a woman in a nightdress walking on the beach with cliffs in the background and a moon looming through the clouds. It is what I think of as a neutral cover, and it reveals nothing about the nature of the book. This does the book a disservice.
On its face, Malinae is about Ward Ayers an eighty-six year old retiree who is trying to cope with his wife, Malina, who is succumbing to the ravages of old age both physically and mentally. Ward is aided in his daily drudgery by strict caregiver Daria, newly hired Celeste, who is much kinder, and the erudite Doctor Kochav. Malina suffers from the usual ailments including memory loss, fugue states, and wandering aimlessly, and Schlossberg does a fine job of detailing not only Malina’s pain and suffering as seen through Ward’s eyes, but also the toll that takes on Ward himself. The author also makes sure to pepper the narrative with the joys and minor conquests that brighten their days. In some ways, this is an incredible book about growing old with the one you love.
Then things get weird.
Ward sees something horrible. Malina drinks saltwater in the middle of the night and then later attempts to wander down the street to return home to the ocean. Ward rightfully suspects that his wife’s condition may be worsening. The reader however, particularly one steeped in cosmic horror, can see the foundation for something Lovecraftian being laid.
I’m not going to reveal much more of the storyline, but let it be said that the third act reveal is more Derlethian than Lovecraftian, but is still satisfying. I was particularly pleased with the description of two senior citizens struggling against an ocean enraged by both a hurricane and the presence of a nascent elder god.
There are relatively few books in which the elderly function as protagonists, and Schlossberg not only makes you care for the pair of them, but also makes their plight and actions in the face of a personal apocalypse feel perfectly appropriate and natural.
The book is rough in a few places, but is still well-crafted and fine enough to be placed in my collection of cosmic horror, and I look forward to reading more by the author.