We discussed Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and T. Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead on November 9, 2023. The 1839/1840 tale by Poe makes us witnesses to the mysterious decline of a house and the horrifying demise of its inhabitants. The 2022 retelling by Kingfisher gives Poe’s anonymous narrator a name, aids them with “a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor” and guides us through the fungal growths of the house of Usher.
PADERBORN2READ Rating for The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
3.5 out of 5
“Although The Fall of the House of Usher tells a fascinating and haunting story that is perfect for Halloween season, Poe’s short story is, of course, relatively archaic in its depiction of the only female character.”
“An enjoyable short story, but not Poe’s best.”
“Classic Horror. Perfect.”
“Despite its age, The Fall of the House of Usher really works for me as a horror tale. There are no fleshed-out characters to speak of—it is only a short story after all. But there are uncanny vibes and atmospheric expressions from start to finish, including horrifying one-liners and a skin-crawling finale, and I love how everything becomes more and more creepy by lack of explanation. Poe leaves his readers with an unsolved puzzle: how did it come to the fall of the house of Usher, what was even happening, what the hell did we just read?”
“Left too much to the imagination—for my taste. 🙂”
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PADERBORN2READ Rating for What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
4.5 out of 5
“Loved the characters and atmosphere but didn’t quite spook me.”
“SO AMAZING. Had to actually take breaks because otherwise I would have read it in one sitting.”
“Such a great reading experience! There are certainly things to be criticised, but above everything I just had a lot of fun reading this book.”
“What Moves the Dead is not only a retelling of Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher but a haunting expansion on it. Kingfisher’s vivid decriptions intensify Poe’s eerie setting: fungi, hares and mold infect every page of the novel—and might also crawl into the reader’s mind.”
“What Moves the Dead takes Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, retains its vibes and a lot of its language but adds characters, explanations, and humour. The result is an immensely enjoyable, although grossly disturbing narrative with a realistic and relatable cast who are just as upset as their readers about the fungal horrors of the Usher estate but somehow manage to handle the situation.
The characters are well-written, fleshed-out humans with their individual strengths and weaknesses, and even Hob the horse is full of personality. The explanations given about the fall of the house of Usher lend the narrative a very different type of horror than Poe’s original horror but they work well within the enlightened and scientific frame of reference Kingfisher puts them in. The humour entwined with the horrors adds another endearing element to the narrative and makes you laugh out loud on one page, when you felt nauseous just one page before.
What is somewhat lacking is a satisfying ending: too many suspicious moves happen on the last few pages, too many questions remain—but at the same time this nod to the puzzling ending of Poe’s original short story only helps to elevate the fungal mysteries of this retelling.”
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