By Andrew Cull
Published by Vermillion2One Press, 2018
I find myself increasingly drawn to short horror fiction. Much like horror movies, horror is often best delivered in small chunks. Enough time to get into a story, develop characters so that you care what happens to them, deliver the punch, and draw it to an end. In other words, a little goes a long way. Andrew Cull’s Bones takes the short story format, and delivers several packed tales in his book centered on monsters and the different forms they can take. We run the gamut from human monsters, to ghosts, to other strange happenings in this book, and each story truly sings all the right notes.
The first story, “Did You Forget About Me?”, packs a powerful punch of estranged family, trauma, growth, and all with a touch of ghosts. This story was truly haunting in terms of long-term repercussions of neglect and family strain. I think, out of the stories, this was the one that grabbed me the least, but, considering the caliber of all of these stories, that’s hardly a knock. The true strength of this story lies in the world created by thick spooky ambiance. At the end of the day, this is a haunted house story that I could truly visualize, creating chills in response to unnerving atmosphere.
“Hope and Walker” was an incredibly unique story. There is a deeply unsettling cadence with which this story is written. I found this short to be one of the scariest because it was able to carefully intertwine real-life horror, the monsters that people can be, with supernatural elements. Cull did a commendable job of really making you see through the eyes, in an emotional sense, with the main character.
The third story “The Trade” was perhaps the bleakest of the bunch. It feels like creature feature meets rituals gone awry. The entire story was horrifically tense, weaving action throughout. Cull writes with such a vivid sense reality that you can almost smell the blood and viscera that permeates this story. I may have connected to these characters the least, but that didn’t mitigate the fear felt while reading this short.
Finally, my favorite story of the group, Cull finishes strong with “Knock and You Will See Me”. This story follows a family who has recently buried a loved one, with a mother at the head of the family trying to protect her children. She begins to receive messages from beyond the grave, seemingly from her recently deceased father. With her sanity in doubt, her children in danger, and the disturbing thought that her father might actually be alive, the story unravels in a spectacularly stressful and panic-inducing manner. Cull’s final featured tale hits you hard where it hurts, ending with heart-palpitating revelations.
Cull has made a powerful debut with Bones. His ability to craft gripping first sentences followed by mesmerizing tales of monsters of all shapes and sizes speaks volumes to his versatility and craft. He’s able to write from multiple perspectives and walks of life, with a tirade of horror themes, and this will surely aid him in his future writing ventures to keep the formula from getting stale.
Disclaimer: Review copy received from author. Thank you!