TTA Novella 5: Engines Beneath Us by Malcolm Devlin
Rob is a Crescent kid. Born and raised in the sheltered circle of grey semis, built to house the employees of The City Works and their families. Under the eye of the reclusive Mr Olhouser, the residents of The Crescent go about their work, their lessons and their law, accompanied by the never-ending sound of The Works machinery deep under the ground.
When Lee Wrexler moves into The Crescent, he brings with him something dangerous from the outside. Not just a reputation for trouble, but an outside perspective that will ultimately show Rob that the home he always thought he had a measure of is a stranger and far more unsettling place than he could have imagined.
"Demonstrating how understated prose can itself thrum as if concealing hidden workings, this authentically eerie novella gets its tone just right" Mat Coward, Morning Star
"The kind of story which just draws you right in. All the characters, even the minor ones, seem real. It leaves you distinctly unsettled and it's not the kind that you will forget. I recommend it highly" Sam Tomaino, SF Revu
"Stunning – such a wonderful progression from gritty, urban normality into haunting, unspeakable terrors. I raced through it. Highly recommended!" David Cleden
"Haunting and deliciously odd and compelling. Read it" Andrew Hook
"This is top notch, low key horror/dark, urban fantasy that's definitely at the literary end of the scale. A reminiscence of early teenage-hood, the layers of the strange enclave the narrator grew up in are slowly lifted back and we are given a glimpse into a world that is at once terrifying in its implications and utterly compelling and believable. As much about family, friendships, and loyalty as it is about the mechanics of its location, this is a wonderfully written novella that gives just enough to satisfy, but also instils a desire for more. Lovely" Paul Feeney
"Brought to mind some of those dark, Black Country industrial stories that Joel Lane specialised in, but there’s also a taste of the kind of golden summers that people around my age remember from their (misspent) youth in the 60s and 70s. There’s also a little bit of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery in its gradual change of tone as the mystery of The Works is revealed. Devlin’s prose is masterful; there were passages here that I re-read a couple of times for their precision and truth. Brilliant" Simon Avery
"It’s an absolutely brilliant piece of urban weird – I loved it" Gary Budden
"A strange, tragic story. Reminiscent of some of the best of the British 90s slipstream writing, of which publisher TTA Press was at the heart" Neil Williamson
"Malcolm Devlin is one of those writers who inspires great trust from readers, and rightly so. He is a quietly brilliant craftsman who never puts a foot wrong. His writing here has an authority and economy that gradually induces paranoia in the reader. We become conscious of the engines beneath us, and afraid. Highly recommended" Georgina Bruce, Ginger Nuts of Horror
"I’m a sucker for Weird Communities stories and this is an absolute cracker. Devlin paints a vivid picture of the community, populates it with rounded believable characters, and never falls down the trap of over explaining the cause of the weirdness. A fantastic novella" Ross Warren
"After reading Devlin’s well-written chiller, you may never look at cities in exactly the same way, but reading Engines Beneath Us is something you definitely should do" Paula Guran, Locus
"This is quite simply brilliant, easily one of the best novellas I have read in many years. The characters are well-drawn and compelling, the childhood scenario familiar and engaging. But it’s only when the weird aspect of the narrative is introduced that the sense of wrongness begins to infiltrate the plot, creating a haunting and memorable story. The subtle ambiguity and carefully disciplined level of exposition are pitch-perfect, and Devlin does a wonderful job of balancing the strange proceedings with the mesmerising sense of nostalgia. I’d class this novella as essential reading for lovers of weird fiction and so it comes highly recommended" Stephen Bacon
B-format paperback with wraparound art by Richard Wagner.