Book Review: Slush by Glenn Rolfe



By Glenn Rolfe

Published by Alien Agenda Publishing, December 2014

4.5 Stars

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a review of a book. Leave it to Glenn Rolfe and an incredible set of short stories to get me back in the game.

I read Slush, a slightly older anthology from Rolfe, on the porch of my home, in the hot summer heat. The title, appropriately reflective of my own physical state in the heat, guided the tone of the stories within. Twelve stories presented in rapid succession make up the contents of Slush, and all twelve stories blend together with a ferocious sense of grime and despair.

I was taken aback by just how horrific some of these stories were—several were mean-spirited to their core, while others started like a crisp autumn morning, only to devolve into gratuitous horror by its end. Every story sang its own tune beautifully, drawing you in for a variety of reasons only to spit you out, churned through a pulp of human emotion, depravity, and violence.

I appreciated how each of these stories were written. The characters stood out in each story, each person distinctly human, hauntingly relatable, and faced with godawful choices, flaws, and downright bad luck. From the opening story “Skull of Snakes” which had a “boys on bikes” feel, I knew these were unique tales of terror.

There was little I disliked about this collection, but chief among them was how a few of the stories made me feel: dirty, tarnished…so perhaps this anthology has truly achieved what it set out to do. The writing itself is thoughtful, reminiscent, light at times, and bludgeoning when need be. Rolfe is truly talented at tone changes, writing characters you can really see, and making your skin crawl when things go wrong.

Check this one out if you get a chance. It may be several years old, but it packs a punch not every anthology can achieve.

Book Review: Bones by Andrew Cull



By Andrew Cull

Published by Vermillion2One Press, 2018

4.5 Stars

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!

Book Review: New Fears edited by Mark Morris


New Fears
Edited By Mark Morris
Published by Titan Books, 2017
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Reading anthologies is a lot like eating a bag of Starbursts. You know your favorite flavors, and you resist eating those first. There’re some less savory flavors, but you eat them anyway because the experience is short, and, ultimately, it’s serving to satisfy your sweet tooth. And, if it this bag of candy is anything like New Fears, edited by Mark Morris with some of the best names in modern horror, you’re going to feel a little sick to your stomach after consuming it all.

New Fears is a unique anthology in that its purpose is not to be centered around a specific theme, per se, but rather to collect a set of stories to give you new things to be frightened about. And, for all intents and purposes, this anthology accomplishes its goals. The stories range from folkloric tales of mischievous creatures, to child abductions by way of obscured hell dimensions, to the realistic horror of mass shootings. Each author has a unique voice that brings these new terrors to the table, some with comedic tinges, some with full blown horror straight in your face. The diverse themes, perspectives, and tone of this anthology make it a true delight to read.

I enjoyed a majority of the stories in this book. “The Boggle Hole” by Alison Littlewood opens this anthology and brought me back to my days of binging Are You Afraid of the Dark as a child (and, let’s face it, an adult as well). The whimsical tone of this story made the unnerving nature of the story even more exciting to read. A few other standouts include Stephen Gallagher’s “Shepherd’s Business”, a truly disturbing story that sticks with you long after you finish the final sentences. “Dollies” by Kathryn Ptacek was chilling in its innocence; Christopher Golden’s “The Abduction Door” has a horrifying cinematic quality to it. And still, though many of these stories creep into your mind, grabbing hold tight and notching up your paranoia, others imbued humor to provide levity between haunts. I’m looking at you “The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers” by Sarah Lotz, the funniest (yet still dark) story in this book.

There were a few stories that I did not enjoy as much as others, but that’s to be expected in an anthology, especially one like this with such a wide variety of authors, themes, and tones. The stories that were less memorable tended to end ambiguously, without identifying the “fear” as concretely as in other stories. Still though, even these stories were successful in creating an atmosphere as dread, and none halted the procession of the book.

This anthology is one of the best I’ve read so far. Mark Morris has compiled a hard-hitting, fun, and terrifying anthology with New Fears. The authors included in this collection are some of the greatest voices of horror we have. This was a great way to learn about new wonderful authors, including many female horror writers I’m excited to follow. I highly recommend this book to genre fans, and I cannot wait to read the second installment coming later this year.BookReviewTemplate