Review of "Lilies," a short story by Iain Rowan

Lilies is a short story of the dead and the living, in a city at war where it is hard to tell one from the other, and where the men who carry the lilies commit the strangest of murders and kill the already dead.

Lilies was chosen for Stephen Jones' Best New Horror anthology and recommended for the British Fantasy Society's Best Short Story. Iain's short fiction has been reprinted in anthologies, won awards, and been the basis for a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers' Association's Debut Dagger award.

There were a lot of layers to this story.  "Thick" would be how I would describe it.  It takes awhile to get into (for a short story) but once I worked through the beginning I got very involved in the story line.  It's quite intriguing.  

The war could really be any war that has happened here on earth but the occasional detail transports you to a not-quite-earth setting.  The two peoples fighting obviously have some religious differences.  Nothing is flat out told to you but you get the strong impression that one side believes in a god and the other side does not.  If you believe in this god, you will be resurrected for one week after your death in order to say goodbye to your loved ones.  An interesting premise.  

This story is told from the point of view of a young soldier named Alex.  For me, I felt this story really centers around is the idea of what it means to be living vs. what it means to be dead.  In this fantasy land the area is grey.  On the one hand Alex is as good as dead if they send him to the front line; this thought permeates everything he does.  On the other hand, there is the walking dead who get one week to live life to the fullest with their loved ones.  Which is really dead?

Though this story is classified as horror, I would say it's more of a "thinker" rather than a blood and guts "slasher."  The ending is somewhat abrupt.  Perhaps a little too abrupt given how the rest of the story reads.  But this alone is not enough to ruin an otherwise good quality, interesting short story.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon US or B&N.


  1. I loved this one; I've just finished his collection Ice Age, which I'd highly recommend.

  2. It was quite good. The ending somewhat eluded me. What was your take on it (if you remember)?


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