Book Review: Visceral Vices by Shawn Chang

About Visceral Vices

Alexandrines singing of carnage, collapse, a capricious, convulsing wormwood bitterness reeking of decay, dolor, and delusions. Sonnets hissing with treachery, tragedy, a trickling, liminal longing that cannot-and will never-be fulfilled.Stories, alive with guttural shrieks and lilts, breeding demonic aura, human vengeance, and beasts and monsters that, like insoluble echoes or silhouetted revenants, are revived from pluperfect myths, modern inventions, and even spectral, Plutonian remembrances, never to be banished.And, brewing in the cascades of blood and bones, much, much more.Comprising 45 poems and 7 short stories, both previously published and new work, Visceral Vices is the author’s first solo collection, embroidered with leaden barbs, laced with miasmic poisons, and, snaking across corpse-filled fissures, mortally taut in suspension with the surreal, gnarled, writhing skeins of fermenting fancies, plaguing aches, and gratuitous murder.

My Thoughts

I set a very high bar for poetry and short stories. My literary self comes to the fore and I expect excellence. I want the likes of Byron or Shelley. I want Wilfred Owen. I want Robert Penn Warren. I want to feel challenged and moved and even swept away. Which is why I opened Visceral Vices with trepidation. I had not heard of Shawn Chang. Would his words reach my expectations? Could his fingertips brush that bar of mine?

Imagine my delight when I did finally open this book and encountered a formidable talent! Three sonnets in and I immediately paused to read this author’s bio. He is an award-winning Canadian poet whose output has been published in literary magazines and journals around the world. To have these various writings gathered up in one collection is a veritable feast for the reader. Chang composes with breathtaking precision. His writing is fresh, youthful, taut, poised, perceptive, penetrating and considered. I enjoyed “Vernal Kingdom”, “Idylls Bless’d” and “Miasmic Eclipse”, the well-executed short story “Sirens of Lerams”, and the dark irony of “The Ink of Iniquity”. There is so much to savour! I will be returning again and again to this collection. I am grateful for the candid Revenant at the end. Unrequited love and the yearnings of the tormented soul feed the Muse as ever they do.

Chang has a good grasp of Greek mythology which he deploys with aplomb and displays mastery of poetic devices in service to his ideas. The author is not shy of perhaps archaic language, the sorts of words slipping from contemporary view in favour of emojis. Chang harkens back, his poetry and his prose encouraging us to hold on to that which is too easily lost: literary refinement and artistry.

In all, Visceral Vices is dark poetry at its best. How much language can I throw at Chang’s to convey my appreciation and persuade others to take the plunge and see for themselves how good this is? Every aspiring dark fiction author should get themselves a copy of Chang’s book. Will Chang be North America’s next Joyce Carol Oates?

Find your copy of Visceral Vices on Amazon

Isobel BlackthornIsobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’

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