cover image The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine

The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine

Peter Straub. Subterranean (, $20 (96p) ISBN 978-1-59606-441-6

Twisting time and expectations, Straub’s disturbing novella slowly submerges readers in an enigmatic nightmare. Ballard and Sandrine are lovers decades apart in age. As they enjoy a yacht trip down the Amazon River, all their needs are taken care of—including supplies for their increasingly brutal acts of sadomasochism—but they never see the crew and are barred from parts of the boat. Unreliable memories and visions float through the repetitive days, and breaking the rules seems like harmless fun until the couple are faced with situations that threaten their serenity and sanity. Peculiar and upsetting moments flicker in and out of early scenes before steadily building to the climax. Horror master Straub (A Special Place) creates a deeply unsettling mystery, erring only with a conclusion that provides too many answers rather than leaving readers to imagine what lurks below deck. (Jan.)