Interzone:Premee Mohamed’s debut collection…eschews genre fidelity with gleeful abandon – No One Will Come Back for Us (Undertow Publications, 2023) is a melting pot of horror, dark fantasy, sci-fi and the gloriously weird – but retains nonetheless a subtle but definite thematic thread. Mohamed’s microcosms are meticulously crafted little snowglobes populated by believable, interesting characters, and more often than not, utterly and cosmically indifferent gods. This theme runs the gamut from explicitly Lovecraftian (‘The Adventurer’s Wife’, which is nothing that you expect it to be) to the more folk horror flavourings of ‘Below the Kirk, Below the Hill’.
Another favourite story, ‘Four Hours of a Revolution’, spotlights the absolutely magnetic Whittaker, a punk-soul rebel fighting a civil war of some kind. Our POV character is Death – though, in a brilliantly imaginative twist, Death is merely one of a great many Deaths, a faintly corporate conglomerate of reapers whose job is the dispassionate dispatch of those whose time is due. It’s pacey, exciting and the worldbuilding strikes a beautiful balance between giving just enough information, and leaving you to intuit the rest. Mohamed says this story makes every mistake in the book; if that’s the case, perhaps more people ought to make mistakes more often.
Her craft and ability are without question, as is her ability to meld genres; title tale ‘No One Will Come Back For Us’ straddles horror, sf, the weird and even a little thriller for good measure. An oddly optimistic tale despite its near-apocalyptic cosmic horror setting, Mohamed seems to be asking whether sometimes, it is simply enough to survive. There’s also something wonderfully wry in the little digs at imperialist attitudes given cosmic horror’s tendency towards xenophobia; a truly twenty-first century take on the genre which I think is well warranted.
Premee Mohamed has staked her claim as one of the most versatile writers I’ve encountered in recent years. Her ability to evoke vividly a wide range of settings and write a wide range of characters whilst maintaining an integral authenticity and believability is remarkable. The bottom line is: Mohamed tells a cracking story, and this collection is as enjoyable a read as you are likely to find in any given bookshop, especially if you like your tales painted across a broad spectrum. The gods may be indifferent, but by the end of this book, I was anything but.