Cover Image: Hangdog Souls

Hangdog Souls

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Member Reviews

I wanted to read this book because of the setting. I am usually not a horror-themed reader, but given that the stories were placed in Southern India (where I come from, not the exact state- but close enough), my curiosity was aroused.
My first mistake was thinking that the entire book is a continuous narrative. Even after the first set of stories, I kept thinking that. Only when I reached the very end, I realised that was not the case. There is a small plot point that hovers in the background of the narrative. It sets the atmosphere and is the foundation of the collection but does not have a direct bearing on the rest of the plots.
I would highly recommend this for those who are on the lookout for some dark sort of -short stories(some longer than others)short stories set in a place they have not probably read stories from before. The writing is very evocative, and the main reason for my rating is that I did not 'enjoy' all the stories equally. There were some that were quite fascinating in that dark way but the others not so much. I will not go into the individual ideas, but the main driving force at the beginning is the story of an Englishman hiding his true heritage while working for an Indian King. It felt like a very unique angle to approach such a story because we have a man serving under a ruler who himself reports to other invaders while taking sides in the Europeans' struggle to hold onto parts of India. There is a significant line at this point that struck me. To paraphrase it, our original protagonist(the man with many names) thinks it is strange that the Europeans put so much effort, time, and money into conquering the country to be in the land (to own it) but not be of it (in terms of learning about and from the native people).
I found each individual character introduced to be very vivid (and many times seriously sinister), and that made the entire read worth it. I am a little more sensitive to certain imagery than the average person, so I think the eerie and unsettling atmosphere will be better appreciated by those who are on the lookout for it - It is not too beyond the realm of standard horror if I think about it.
Coming back to the depiction of the locals and local life through several centuries (as all the chapters continue to jump leaps and bounds ahead in time with every successive book), it felt quite thorough and realistic. I did not find anything uncomfortable or stereotyping, at least not enough to detract from the plot itself (while sometimes adding to it).
Even though it is not my usual genre of reading, I am glad I gave it a shot!
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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Hangdog Souls is a set of loosely linked short stories set in India, specifically Mysore and often around the city of Ooty. The stories all all in some way connected to the first, a tale of a British exile hiding, pretending to be Portuguese until the British attack. In this he does a deal with the local leader to move his family and his crop of Eucalyptus Trees to safety - but pays a high price for the deal. Its very well observed and has a creeping horror subtext that plays out into actual horror, and a twist into the supernatural which I didn't expect. The rest of the book broadly doubles down on this twist,

There is a lot to like in Hangdog Souls, but the greatest compliment I can pay it is that it reminded me, particularly in the the more tart stories, of M.R.James. In a lot of these cases people go to unknown places, get embroiled with something strange or mildly spooky (get get to be aware of ranting only people who might be British), and things take a turn. Though for Joan, the devil is replaced by aspects of colonialism, and/or the British, there is also plenty to be said about Dravidian spiritualism. As a collection of shorts it does a good job at throwing characters and archetypes, and in some cases styles at us, sketching historical actors and more contemporary sketches of Indian Middle Class. There is even a proper sci-fi horror here in a search within particle physics which leads to a more cosmic take on the themes of the story.

Hangdog Souls surprised me with how coherent it was both as a collection of shorts, and thematically. There is a question returned to about how you weigh a life, both in saving another, and your own. But there are also some wonderfully choice bits of writing too - the three pages on the preparation of a hangman's rope is delightfully macabre, Well worth a read if the idea of Indian set, century spanning M.R.James tickles your fancy.

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A mad book. Dark and sad but rewarding.
Such a tragic story but one you'll never forget and are ale to learn so much from.

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