I read this pretty recently (late 2017 to early 2018) and have been trying to find it again, with absolutely no success. Details I remember:

  • city has an annual festival/carnival thing, where at a ceremony (maybe a concert/show?) volunteers are called up from the crowd and a hollowed-out animal head is placed over their own like a mask
  • set roughly in the present day, possibly in England
  • protagonist is the girlfriend of one of the volunteers
  • after the festival, the people who wore the heads have check-ups at a lab where the heads get put back on them for some kind of testing
  • eventually, three of the people disappear, along with their corresponding animal heads, and it’s revealed that they had been breaking into the lab and illicitly putting the heads on
  • the protagonist tries to track down her boyfriend by talking to a woman connected to one of the other animal-head-people
  • the heads, when removed, have some kind of worm/larva things inside them, and leave sucker-like marks on the person’s skin underneath

That’s about all the details I can think of—does this ring a bell for anyone?

  • Do you know when you read it? Some people's pretty recently is yesterday and for others it's 15 years ago. A year/range of years would help narrow down the answer.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 23, 2018 at 6:31
  • It was in the last year, probably within the last six months. Not sure when it was published, though I think I was reading it shortly after publication. Jan 23, 2018 at 6:34
  • 3
    I see, a person with a reasonable sense of the word recently.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 23, 2018 at 6:34

1 Answer 1


"After the Festival" by China Miéville

a Wicker-Man-meets-“The-Lottery” horrorshow about the insatiable evolutionary rush brought on by a strange ritual involving the donning of freshly severed animal heads.


Reviewers on Goodreads mention

Medieval-esque ritual into an otherwise normal world


worms burrowing from those heads into the flesh of the people beneath, revealing the animal within the human condition, and the craving those people have for those heads.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1263654686?book_show_action=false https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1331800237?book_show_action=false

  • That’s the one! Thank you—I read it in Three Moments of an Explosion but couldn’t connect it back to that. Jan 23, 2018 at 15:56

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