Piggy-backing off my last review, here’s another multipack of short stories, this time from Australian author Stephan Imri-Knight.
Again, all these stories were downloaded for free from Stephan’s Smashwords page.
‘Arse Rot’ (2013)
This is a horrible story about a man who has sat in his easy chair for so long, lounging in his accumulated filth, that his rectum has suppurated, leading to a shameful and disgusting death. Despite the author’s best descriptive efforts, it’s not funny, nor is there any insight beyond the message that being a fat lazy fuck who does nothing but eat and watch horror movies is not good for you, which I think we already knew. That said, I will offer one compliment – Imri-Knight is really good at conjuring up smells, tastes and textures in the story, which is a definite skill. I was physically gagging throughout most of the story, which is a reaction few authors can invoke at will, and it occurs thanks to her spot-on descriptions.
For this review (and the next one) I’m doing things a little differently. I’ve downloaded half a dozen of Lori R. Lopez’s free short stories from her Smashwords page. Rather than do them as separate reviews, I’ve decided to treat all six of them as a single collection.
So, without further ado…
‘Unleashed: Tail One’ (2011)
The first story in the batch is also the weakest. It’s a murder mystery, told from the point of view of three different characters: a dog, a cat and a homicide detective. If you eye-rolled at that description, then you’re not alone, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Indeed, my issue with the piece isn’t the central conceit, but its structure. POV changes occur every page or so (enough to cause literary whiplash in itself), but on occasion you hit a scene break, only to discover that it’s still the same character talking. It’s distracting, to say the least, and pulled me out of the narrative more than once. The story is okay, if a little contracted. We hear of events leading up to the main story as they are rattled off by the characters in quick succession, and I feel exploring these aspects in more detail would add weight to the story.
Author: Gary McMahon
Title: The Grieving Stones
Publisher: Horrific Tales Publishing
Format: Kindle, 94 pages
Every now and then, if you are very lucky, you will come across a book that transcends the printed page (or, in this instance, the screen of my battered old Kindle) and leaves a small, jagged splinter of itself deep inside you. Not enough to hurt, but enough to notice.
The Grieving Stones is one such book.
Following the sudden passing of her husband, Alice starts attending a therapy group for people who have suffered similar bereavements. The group’s counsellor, Clive, arranges for a few of them to spend time at Grief House for a weekend retreat, where it hoped that the isolation and the effort of clearing the house between therapy sessions, will help them in their respective journeys to recovery.
…in which Our Hero discusses grasping the fundamentals of the craft…
A cursory glance over the last couple of weeks since I rebooted this blog will tell you one thing: I’ve been doing a lot of reading this month. Seven books in two weeks, and a review for each of them.
Of course, that’s one of the golden rules for writing, yeah? Read a lot and write a lot. There’s not a professional writer out there who doesn’t espouse that particular piece of literary wisdom.
Maybe Shaun Hutson but, you know… let’s not go there.
Reading is one of the great pleasures of existence. I am by no means religious but, if I was, my idea of Heaven would be a library of infinite size, a well-padded chair designed in equal measure for sitting and napping, and a cup of tea of a size sufficient to harbour the Kraken.
That would hit the spot for me.
Author: John Llewellyn Probert
Title: Dead Shift
Publisher: Horrific Tales Publishing
Format: Kindle, 152 pages
Dead Shift is the first in Horrific Tales Publishing’s new line of premium novellas, and it’s a Hell of a way to kick off a series.
It’s another ordinary night at Northcote Hospital, until an emaciated old tramp is dragged into the place against his will, bringing with him the key to unlock the door between this dimension and another. As chaos descends, it’s down to three members of the hospital staff to set right the wrongs that have been allowed entry into the world.
This is a great book, and different to the stuff I’ve been reading lately. The synopsis given in the previous paragraph may sound like standard horror fare, and I suppose it is, but in such circumstances it is the delivery that is key, and Probert’s is almost pitch-perfect. He has a way with characterisation and dialogue that gives the story a very British feel, one that doesn’t come solely from its setting. There is a light-hearted sarcasm employed by the main trio that sounds so natural, echoing that slightly guarded banter we reserve for the workplace, and this smoothness of dialogue defines the story at least as much as the plot does.
Author: Paul Kane
Title: The Rot
Publisher: Horrific Tales Publishing
Format: Kindle, 120 pages
I was thinking, only the other day, how long it’s been since I’ve read a really good hate-plague novel: you know, something akin to Herbert’s The Fog, or Laymon’s One Rainy Night.
Well, The Rot nearly hits the mark. Indeed, it’s so close it’s infuriating.
Adam Kellar, a test subject for a military organisation, is putting a new environment suit – a latex-thin, life-sustaining, environment-cancelling miracle polymer called SKIN – through its paces in a secret facility, when the whole world goes to crap. People seem to have just lost it, resorting to animalistic behaviour: wrecking, killing and rutting, for no reason Kellar can make out. He makes good his escape, and soon comes to realise that it’s only his experimental SKIN suit that is keeping him safe.
Author: Richard Laymon
Title: Laymon’s Rules of Writing
Publisher: Horror Writer’s Association
There seems to be a near-infinite number of books out there to guide the aspiring writer. Whether you want to increase your daily word count, learn to weave more intricate plots, mould better characters, or simply cobble together a shitty non-fiction book with content stolen from Wikipedia, you can guarantee there is a book out there that will promise to show you how.
Even my beloved horror genre is not immune. The standard text, of course, is Stephen King’s On Writing, but other stalwarts in the field have produced useful works on the subject: Dean Koontz, Guy N. Smith, William Meikle and Ray Bradbury, to name but four.
…in which Our Hero displays his creative bubble to the world…
Here it is, folks, in all of its minimalist glory: a desk and a folding chair pressed up against one wall of my bedroom.
A boxfile, some cardboard wallets, a lined A4 pad, a stack of index cards for making notes, a ruler, a stapler (plus staples) and a stack of pens.
An my laptop, of course – my beautiful laptop.
That’s it, man… it’s all I need. It’s all any writer needs.
Here’s to spending many productive hours in front of it.
Author: Terry Pratchett
Title: The Colour of Magic
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Format: Kindle, 292 pages
Genre: comic fantasy
This is the first book in Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld series and, on that basis alone, is deserving of your attention. That said, taken on its own merits it’s a book that’s difficult to love.
Whereas later books in the series were satires on the modern world, viewed through a fantasy lens, The Colour of Magic is closer to a parody, or a pastiche, or maybe an affectionate homage. However you define it, it consists of pinballing Discworld stalwart Rincewind and his companion Twoflower from one classic fantasy scenario to another, with no time to take a breath, and little in the way of rhyme or reason.
Author: Iain Rob Wright
Publisher: SalGad Publishing Group
Format: Kindle, 158 pages
Genre: science fiction, horror
In the late twenty-first century mankind has colonised the moon and turned into a leisure complex and theme park named Grand Galaxy: The Happiest Place in the Universe. When all communication from the moon suddenly goes down, a small team of technicians and engineers are despatched to find out what has gone wrong.
Hmmm… I think we know what’s going to happen here, right?