Weirdling is, as its name may have already suggested, something of a strange book. Set in a dim and distant future, the human race is battling a bizarre worm-like race in the deep, dank seas of an inhospitable planet. Set mostly on a sort of cross between a spaceship and a submarine, we follow the thoughts and actions of Anna Mandretta, a conscripted medic.
Life on the vessel is lonely and claustrophobic so a number of ways have been developed to keep its crew sane: virtual reality chambers; dream influencing machines; and genetically modified hemp.
However, Anna’s dreams are particularly lucid. She dreams that she’s a famous Victorian surgeon, called upon to heal some of her time’s trickiest medical problems. But when she’s called on to deal with a child seemingly possesses by an ancient, tentacled, Lovecraftian god, she discovers some latent powers that probably shouldn’t see the light of day.
This dream starts to drift into Anna’s daytime reality as she remembers her nightmarish powers. She falls under the suspicion of the rest of the ship’s crew as she seems to survive a lethal encounter with the enemy and know more about them than anyone else on the ship. What they don’t realise is that she might be the only one who can save them.
It’s a taught, claustrophobic sci-fi horror-thriller, similar in tone to the original Alien film. The action is deliberately obtuse as we travel down the path of Anna’s own voyage of discovery, opening up portals into different dimensions, unclear exactly who or what is behind her dreams and revelations.
This makes for a fascinating, dark and deliberately confusing read. But if you like serious, intelligent, adult science fiction, it’s well worth persevering with. We’re not sure all our questions were completely answered by the culmination of the book, but the journey through madness and distrust makes for a great ride, while Dubisch’s black and white art offers the kind of disturbing unknowable alien horror that will send shivers down your spine.