Cover Image: Leech

Leech

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I requested this book on Netgalley because I saw Tamsyn Muir had blurbed it; as she is my guiding compass for strange and unusual science fiction, I was excited to read 'Leech'. I knew very little about what it was actually *about* going in, and honestly, that's what I recommend when reading this one: this book was a weird, creepy RIDE. I absolutely adored it. Thank you so much for the ARC, Netgalley and Tor!

I'm going to glaze over the plot a little, to preserve some of the book's best reveals: there is a strange death in a remote, snow-covered village. A doctor is investigating this death, as the dead person was the previous doctor for this village, and he's curious about what has happened to his predecessor. It becomes clear that something strange, unearthly, and horrifying is occurring within this freezing, hostile place. 

This is medical horror and body horror done right. Ennes's writing style is perfect for the vaguely 19th century time period; those comparing this to Frankenstein are right on the money. The mystery is so bleak, the horror so creepy-crawly, and the central protagonist so interesting that I burned through this novel in three days. It's freakin' WEIRD, guys. Lovers of weird, existential body horror rise up! Your time is now with this book.
Was this review helpful?
Weird science, parasitic symbiotes, personship and isolation all slam into each other in this deeply creepy gothic sci-fi novel.

Hiron Ennes delivers a world where parasites, known as The Institute work as doctors, connected via their minds. When one of their kind dies, the narrator (no-name because they don't *have* individual names) travels to the north where they investigate both the death, and the horrfying black goo of a parasite they find behind their predecessor's eye.

This book has so much going for it. Weird science, gothic vibes in a post-apocalyptic world that is trying to rebuild itself, medical creepiness, the unease of not knowing if something is just off or if the narrator is losing their mind.

Just when I thought I knew where this story was going, it took a hard left and had me reading the last 1/3 of the book in a frantic rush to see what happened next. I didn't see it coming and it smacked me in the face, as all the best books do.

The one caveat I will make is the lack of much of any TW or CWs going into reading this book. There is mostly on page CSA. Nothing beyond the pale, but I still would have liked to know about it before I ran into it on page.

Leech slams gothic horror and science fiction together with wonderfully horrific results.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley, Tordotcom, and Hiron Ennes for the advanced copy of Leech in exchange for my honest review.

I will unfortunately be DNF'ing this one. I'm having a hard time with the writing style (I truly have no idea what's going on and it's making me feel dumb!)

If intentionally complex stories are for you, this book will be right up your alley! Out of fairness I will not be rating this on any retail websites.
Was this review helpful?
Doctors at the Interprovincial Medical Institute are connected in a way they only understand. Each doctor might be their own person, but they share a consciousness and a connection to the institute itself. Research, text, and others’ thoughts and ideas are all intertwined. But when one of their own is lost, the replacement doctor must solve the mysteries of their predecessor’s death. Before their descent into madness, the doctor will have to confront a predatory parasite that challenges humanity for its spot atop the evolutionary ladder.
 
Leech is the creative debut novel from Hiron Ennes. This gothic medical horror is brilliantly written. As a medical student, Ennes infuses a lot of scientific detail in their book. The unique twist on shared consciousness makes this a story like no other. Ennes’ characters are full of both depth and intrigue.  The neo-baroque setting is creepy and bizarre. Ennes is a master of the dark and surreal, an expert at vividly describing places, people, and scenarios. The reader feels dread, terror, and turmoil in this. suspenseful thriller. It will leave one checking dark corners carefully. For fans of the eerie and grotesque let Leach suck you in.
Was this review helpful?
Leech is a phenomenal, unsettling addition to the New Weird niche that is gothic science fiction about parasites (think T. Kingfisher’s “What Moves the Dead”, Jeff Vandermeer’s “Annihilation”, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic”). I love the author’s twist on the topic; in fact, i think this is the first book i’ve read that is written from the perspective of the parasite instead of an ordinary person trying to defeat a parasite. The implications of this are fascinating, and the result is subversive and intelligent.

Also, I love Ennes’ Brönte-esque, elegant writing style— it feels reminiscent of early gothic lit, even though the story is set in the future.
Was this review helpful?
Horrifying and brilliant and beautiful and made me squeamish for sure- all the things I went into this gem expecting! I've already ordered copies to come into my store to hand sell upon release. I still have the heebie jeebies. Ugh! Bravo.
Was this review helpful?
Way out in an extremely isolated chateau, the replacement for a deceased doctor of a baron has arrived and is fascinated with the mysterious death of their predecessor. The baron is not concerned, but the new doctor is, and they fear there’s a strange new parasite lurking in the corners of the castle. Unfortunately for them, their fears are confirmed as the parasite spreads its way across the castle, causing its inhabitants to become just as dangerous as the parasite out of fear.

I have to say that this book is an interesting one, but it is confusing at times. Early on, I almost thought the doctor we were following was actually the parasite threatening the entire community. Though, we are indeed following someone affected by a parasite, it’s just a different one altogether. Regardless, the concept alone made this a really interesting read because we’re watching the internal struggles of someone who was basically body snatched by a parasite long before the start of the book. This new deadly parasite just fascinates the protagonist whose true name isn’t revealed until much later.

Honestly, I think this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. It’s a gothic science fiction that has us following an unreliable narrator. They are unreliable because they have basically been body snatched by a parasite for some time at the start of the novel, so they have many voices in their head on top of having their body controlled at times. On top of everything, they’re also losing time, so there’s big gaps in their memory and they are fully aware of it.

There’s a cast of violent to just odd characters. I liked two characters, but it wasn’t enough for me to say either were favorites. It’s just that the two of them were likable and I liked every time they showed up in the story. If you’re looking for a book that will give you characters you’re rooting for all along, this isn’t the book for you, but it does have a cast of odd to downright crazy characters to follow.

All in all, this is a gothic sci-fi horror at the core. There’s some steampunk elements to it that make it interesting, but not enough to call it a steampunk novel. There’s also a lot of blood and gore, which can get pretty gross at times, so it’s not for the squeamish. The opening is a bit of a confusing slow burn, but once it picks up, it makes sense most of the time and takes readers for a wild ride. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a gothic sci-fi horror and like unreliable narrators.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

This book was fantastic, and I found myself unable to put it down over the three days I read it. It's extremely gripping and atmospheric, and I already find myself wanting to re-read it at some point. As the story and its worldbuilding unfolded, I found myself marveling at its intricacy -- which by no means create confusion after you're situated within them. I've never read a book that manages to combine the gothic and scifi in this way, and by gosh it is so successful -- I found myself wondering how on earth this could just be the author's debut novel.

Highly recommend, especially if you love horror, the gothic, and other weird books. Definitely check out cw's -- body horror is the main squick, but there are others too. Can't wait to reread in the future.
Was this review helpful?
I've come to love books like this.  I think in large part due to my fear of the unknown.  This book was capable of keeping me on my toes.  Although, it didn't scare me in any way, it did keep me turning pages.  That is by no means an insult to Hiron Ennes.  I am hard to scare.  The book did give me a bit of creepy crawly heeby jeebies. 
After countless years of reading horror and watching horror or thrillers, it's hard to get under my skin these days.  I would suggest reading this book.  For those like me, it's just plain fun.  For those who are not yet jaded, you might just get a bit scared!
Was this review helpful?
The Interprovincial Medical Institute has taken it upon itself to protect us, from ourselves. A parasitic orgnaization, it infects young minds and turns selected children into doctors. It monopolizes the medical profession entirely, forcing its human hosts into a co-dependent relationship.

Baron de Verdira, a cruel ruler in a desperate countryside, is heavily reliant on the Institute's expertise to keep himself alive. His old doctor died under mysterious circumstances and it will be up to his replacement to unravel the horrors in Chateau de Verdira, just as a bitter winter descends.

The baron's new doctor discovers a dangerous parasite infestation, other than its own. A strange creature with probing black legs, that's quietly propagating and subsequently killing its hosts. As the doctor investigates the newly discovered parasite, she begins to realize there is more infecting the residents of Verdira than parasites. 

Leech by Hiron Ennes is being market as a "debut"novel. What a delicious debut it will be. The prose reads like it was written in an older decade, the dialogue modern and gut-wrenching. The setting is open to interpretation; it could be an alternate world, similar to ours, or it could be ours, a thousand years in the future after technology became our undoing. To me, it feels like a future us.

Hiron Ennes takes some of the best cliches of Gothic horror - a castle overlooking a desolate countryside, a winter that chills to the bone, things that creep and crawl in the dark - and breathed new life into them. Past and present are expertly woven together to create a story that's rich in atmosphere as it is in suspense. An anti-hero narrates, hypocritically so, her fight against a terrifying antagonist. She's determined to secure the survival of a species, just not necessarily ours.

The sickly Baron, who doesn't hide his violence, and his perversion of a family sit in juxtaposition with our protagonist who is actively trying to help people, forces the question: Who is good, who is evil, and does it matter when everyone just wants to survive?

A gothic horror about bodily autonomy couldn't have picked a more politically loaded time to debut. Following the Covid-19 Pandemic, Anti-vaxxers, and the Overturning of Roe v Wade, it's a subject that is on everybody's mind. Where do our bodies end and our Government's rights begin? What would you be willing to give, for your health?

The ending was left open, which I usually dislike, but something about the open ending just felt good. You can taste freedom on the back of your tongue just as equally as future's uncertainty. Not to mention, I'm frothing at the mouth for a sequel.
Was this review helpful?
A blend of gothic horror, medical, and sci-fi genres. I really enjoyed the premise, and the collective point of view that appears in parts of the book. There are two parasites fighting for control of human bodies, and the theme throughout the novel about bodily autonomy and control was well put forward. The pace was a bit slow for me in some sections, and it took me a long time to work my way through it. This is not a light read. But it’s definitely immersive and you can get lost in the hypnotic quality of the story. There's a significant amount of body horror and lots of content warnings for this one, including rape and child death.
Was this review helpful?
A fascinating, intricate, and un-put-downable debut, Leech was a fascinating mix of gothic horror, fantasy, science fiction, and (strangely enough) coming of age. A weird and wonderful book.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 stars

This was one of those books that was just too smart for me to understand everything in one read. I definitely want to reread it at some point and I’ll probably enjoy it more then. Other than that, if you’re into sci-fi body horror and you like The Thing, boy do I have a book for you.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this novel. I am rating this book based the stars due to lack of time to leave a full review. #Leech #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
It took me almost a month to read this story. I’m not a particularly slow reader, but I struggled with it. It’s complex, it’s confusing, it’s purposely convoluted. For some that might be exactly what they want. A dystopian setting that is something between gothic, primitive castes, and steam punk apocalyptic - it sounded like something i would love. But I found myself getting lost in the words, in the worlds, and in the shared minds. I barely could grasp what I was reading until half-way through and by the time I got my bearings I felt like the story took a fantasy nosedive I was not expecting or that made sense. 

I think there are many that will love getting lost in this story, watching the parasitic mystery unfurl like the black tentacles of pseudomycota, watching through the hive mind of the Institute and wrestling with the dilemma of controlling your own body/brain/skin. It just wasn’t for me as it was written and the ending didn’t give me the closure or answers I was looking for.

Would I recommend it to someone looking for a unique sci-fi gothic horror? Sure, but I’d give it with a few disclaimers.
Was this review helpful?
An incredible premise, fascinating worldbuilding, and a carefully curated building of tension and fear propels this post-apocalyptic gothic horror to incredible heights. 

Hiron Ennes' debut novel centers on a devious hive mind that controls much of the available medical knowledge and skill in the world, and on its efforts to investigate the mysterious death of one of its bodies that it can't remember the exact circumstances of its demise. Skillfully developed as a character, this hive mind is a sinister protagonist which will easily draw in curious readers who will be desperate to see this mystery unravel as things continue to get weirder from the jump.

An easy recommendation for fans of the horror genre. Sci-Fi fans might also be pretty interested in the world and characters , even if the plot might get pretty gross and horrific.
Was this review helpful?
This was a complicated book full of incredibly imagined imagery, and yes, sometimes that imagery was pretty gross. The detailed world-building of Leech takes the reader deep into a post-apocalyptic and dystopian world where there is a sense that a freshly-developing feudal society exists by scavenging technology from the remains of some ruinous, faintly mythical older civilization. Much of this world-building tends toward the “new weird” microgenre, and this includes the main character: a parasite that colonizes and controls human bodies to create a hive mind and has taken over the medicinal profession in its society. I’ll call them “the doctor.”

It gets… complicated from there (more complicated? haha). First off, the doctor is stationed in an isolated, giant, and dilapidated manor house peopled by a grotesque ruling family including the patriarch who won’t die, the wife who struggles to bring a baby to full term, and some exceedingly creepy twin girls.  There are humans who are half machine with mechanical hearts and who exhale smoke when they breath. There’s a subjugated under-caste partially made up by an all-but-extinct indigenous population. And, finally, there’s the dueling parasites, the second of which is a black ball of tentacles that also attempts to colonize human bodies. It’s a lot, but it all seems to work together in creating a dystopian and faintly brooding atmosphere where it’s unclear whether the doctor can trust anyone, including themselves.

The story quickly descends into body horror (is that a black tentacle in the doctor’s eye? Is a parasite directing the actions of people in the manor house?) and a faintly brooding atmosphere. What I found most interesting was the development of the doctor’s character who starts off as one of the “bodies” colonized by the doctor-parasite but whose consciousness is quickly cut off from the rest of the hive. The fact that one of the parasites provides one main POV allows for interesting nuance in an overarching theme of autonomy, control, and consent. What happens to your consciousness when your body is not your own?

I know this book is generally categorized as horror, but it's also reading as speculative fiction and "new weird" and therfore recommended for readers of China Mieville or Jeff Vandermeer, and folks who don't mind body horror. TW for rape, among other things.

My thanks to Netgalley, Tor/Forge Publishing, and Hiron Ennes for providing this e-arc for review.
Was this review helpful?
This is so weird and quiet and tense, it’s like a fever dream blanketed beneath ten feet of snow. The violence is swift, sometimes surprisingly so, the tragedies many and unique. The shared consciousness aspect was fascinating and well executed, the parasites lurking. I didn’t always understand the world, but I don’t think you’re supposed to. Understanding, relief, identity, it always seems just out of reach. So good, so smart, so strange.
Was this review helpful?
(I was provided with an ARC through NetGalley)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers vs John Carpenter's The Thing in a post-post apocalyptic world. A reductive way to describe the book, but a decent enough starting place to let you know if you'll like it or not, and holy crow did I like it. It's hard to attempt to describe further without giving away the plot, so I'm not even going to try. Read this when it comes out.
Was this review helpful?
This has immediately become one of my favorite reads of 2022. Ennes has such a thorough understanding of nature and it really lends itself to this incredible novel they've written. Leech is an interesting study into human nature, but also into monstrosity -- this sounds trite and overdone, but this is INCREDIBLY fresh, while still managing to hold onto what historically makes something a true gothic horror. It has some dense prose and terminology at the beginning that may turn people off and, while normally I believe you should DNF whenever you want, I guarantee it's worth it to stick it out and keep going.
Was this review helpful?