The Wilderness Within is a dark fever dream of a book. This is in no way meant as a detraction. Smith created a world where the darkness of Man and the darkness of Nature stand shoulder to shoulder, one no greater in monstrosity than the other, and create a Weird (capitalization intentional) symbiosis that fleshes out a story of immense depth and imagination.
The Wilderness Within is a story of Derek Grey, a fiction writer of some success, and his trip to visit his friend Frank, longtime companion and fellow writer, in his secluded forest retreat. When Derek sees his friend he notices a oddness, a distance of being that Frank does little to explain. Frank takes Derek on a hike to the forest nearby, and from there the story slowly evolves into a hallucinatory, surreal nightmare trip of self-delusion and self-discovery culminating in an ending that…well, that would be telling.
Smith does an amazing job of showing us the inner workings of Derek. Derek is one of the most introspective characters I’ve ever read in a Weird fiction piece of any length, sharing with us the depths of insight and questioning in the face of the experiences he endures through the length of the book with clarity that never gets dry or boring. His other characters are multifaceted as well, often with very grim and surprising results. This is definitely Weird fiction you’re going to have to pay attention to, and I doubt you’ll mind.