The Secret Language of Spiders
K. L. Young
Strange Aeons (June 25, 2024)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers

Writer and filmmaker K.L. Young has released a new novel, The Secret Language of Spiders, that I would describe as a Lovecraftian body horror set in a small, dying town in the Pacific Northwest. I was blown away by this novel. The Secret Language of Spiders began life as a screenplay, Widowed, and was previously released in late 2023 and early 2024 as a limited series of five chapbooks, in the vein of Stephen King and John Saul’s efforts in the mid-‘90s. Now it’s just emerged as a stand-alone novel.

Young’s chops as a screenwriter are in full effect here: this is a lean, taut thrill ride. I think another author would have been tempted to overwrite this one, but the story would not have been well-served by bloated prose. This is the story of Daniel Cook, pastor of a dying church in the small town of Kobbe’s End, a community that has been laid waste to by the opioid epidemic. Not only is Daniel’s church and town dying, but so is his wife Nancy, a nice lady beset by a chronic illness that has left her bedridden with no hope. Over the course of the book, the deep history of the town, its founding, and the origins of the unimaginable horrors that Daniel and the people of Kobbe’s End experience as Nancy transforms into a monstrosity and Daniel tries desperately to deal with the crisis.

This is a book that cries out for a film adaptation. Young’s writing, especially its characterization, is reminiscent of Stephen King at his finest. He’s got a deft touch that allows him to bring to life even minor characters with just a few sentences. He’s able to establish scene-setting and mood immediately, and then steadily ratchet up the horror, tension, and action as the novel progresses. Young knows how to keep the tension high throughout, taking you right to the edge, then pulling back, then hitting the gas again; there were several scenes of menace that kept me on the edge of my seat. We get a very nice historical interlude that sheds light on the founding of Kobbe’s End and some (but not all) of the origins of the horrors that are unleashed in The Secret Language of Spiders. The ending was satisfying but there are still a couple dangling threads that would allow for a sequel; I very much hope that Young revisits this setting and characters.

If you are an old-school Lovecraftian, you will recognize the entity involved in all of this, which originally hails from Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Seven Geases” and has been used by several other writers over the years including Derleth, Lumley, Wilson, Carter, and others.

The Secret Language of Spiders is a genuinely great read. Unless you’re a serious arachnophobe, you should check this one out. And if you are an arachnophobe, you’re probably still going to want to read it. K.L. Young is a writer to watch. He brings the sensibility of a screenwriter and a filmmaker to his fiction, which makes his prose sing. Highly recommended.