Teaser Tuesday: “Threshold”

So this week I was reading Threshold, by Caitlín R. Kiernan, a horror/fantasy novel in which a geology studen gets mixed up with sinister fossils. Or something like that.

You’re still very pale.

Although this is classified as a horror novel, so far (and I am pretty far into it) I would characterize it as dark fantasy, of the “slowly ratcheting up the tension” variety. It also contains far and away the most extensive and, to my non-expert ears, scientifically accurate use of geological and paleontological concepts and terminology of any book I’ve ever read (including Jurassic Park and its sequels), and it features a number of conversations about trilobites. Because who doesn’t love trilobites?


Tribbles are only distantly related to trilobites.


Looking at Caitlín R. Kiernan’s bio at Goodreads, one discovers that, in addition to horror and fantasy novels, she is also the author of scientific papers on paleontology. So that explains all the science. It probably also explains this scene, in which Our Heroine, Chance the geology grad student, finds herself briefly transported to or given a vision of the world as it was millions of years before, when the things she studies in the rocks were growing and alive.

And she’s standing on the sloping, pebblestrewn bank of a broad river, crystal-green waters that slip gently past on their way to the sea, that ripple and eddy beneath the high tropical sun. A river like this to put the Mississippi to shame, a river even the Amazon could only envy, restless depths to divide a forest of strange trees, giant club mosses and the towering evergreen Lepidodendron that stand as tall and straight as redwoods, their ancient branches spread out above a billowing carpet of ferns. No sound here but the river lapping hungry at the edge of the forest, the sigh of the wind in the leaves and the rasping drone of insects. The Paleozoic sunlight falls in cathedral-brilliant shafts across a million shades of green, and Chance knows that she has already walked the broken sedimentary memory of this world, the shale and sandstone ruin of it. Has spent so many years struggling to read its stingy carbonized remains, and here it is laid out before her, made whole again, restored, and suddenly she’s crying, tears as warm as the sun and the wind.

Pleasant as that may sound, the astute reader will not be shocked to learn that the entity showing Chance this vision does not have her best interests in mind …

Now normally when I do a Teaser Tuesday post I include a little excerpt from the book I’m currently working on myself, but because in some ways (not just its use of the present tense) Threshold reminds me of one of my own horror novels from the same era, the early to mid 1990s, I thought I would dust off an excerpt from Night Watchman instead.

The old hotel is burning, like everything else around here, its upper floors all smoke and fire. Doesn’t worry Yolanda none. It’s just fire, real fire, clean. Can’t hurt her on the other side.

There’s a few stairs to the front door. She jaunts up them. Funny how you move like you’re alive, even when you’re dead. Maybe, after she’s away from here, she’ll try to figure out how to fly. She always wanted to fly. Maybe that was why she got into the drugs, way back when.

She stands in the doorway a minute, the fire at her back, soaking up the vibrations. It takes her a minute to adjust to what she’s feeling.


Kind of like the gummed interior of a blender that’s never been washed. Everything that comes through leaves a little bit of itself stuck to the sides.

Mmm, blender residue. Tasty.

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