Review: Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky (Dynatox Ministries; 2015)

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“Loveliness like a Shadow”

This first story in this collection has a crisp, clean, traditional style.

It unnerved me first with this passage:

“She was about 5 when she first experienced it. Sleeping on the bottom bunk, her older sister snoring on top. A thin naked woman had settled on her chest, a coiled weight, loose skin slopping over her ribs into the floor. Wild confusion of hair trembling in the air like shock lines around a comic strip character’s head. A stunningly beautiful face. Mask of someone else’s mask. All that hair whipping and hissing with blind aggression.”

Yet it also contains haunted frames of contemporary malaise:

“All of her actions were familiar, like an old videotape recorded over long forgotten shows, fleeting images of the original programming peaking through.”

Although the style is orderly, the ambiguous ending and the desolately lonely madness of the atmosphere recalled Robert Aickman…

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Quintessence of Dust by Craig Wallwork

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I have read Wallwork once before with the horror collection Gory Hole. While I enjoyed that one, I am honestly pretty blown away by Quintessence of Dust. The stories will be with me for a long time, to be sure. Some were romantic, some were weird and disturbing (often with body parts being utilized for several things beside their intended functions), and others made me laugh while stressing some important life lessons. This is no doubt one of the best collections I have had the pleasure of reading.

Night Holds a Scythe: An urgent and touching post apocalyptic story involving a father and his four year old daughter, with a unique catalyst for the end times. I thought that this was a great opener for the book.

Railway Architecture: A husband who puts his desire into someone other than his wife will soon have the scales tipped. The railway as a metaphor for our choices in life and where they take us applied so well to what was going on.

Skin: The origins and exploits of Freakshow performers Sam-Hung and Delabia. Their unique talents give them an interesting way of earning a living. The end of this one will be one I do not forget.

Morning Birdsong and the Hell Demons: A medical student falls in love while delivering a baby amidst a demon attack. The descriptions of the female character were so vivid and the author nails the full experience of love at first sight.

A Neck That is Not Thick: While this may sound like a small problem, the protagonist is so hung up and affected by his neck that he cannot take it and goes to drastic measures.

Anal Twine: I am tempted to say that the title says enough, but I will say that I was shaking my head after this one, grinning at the execution of such a crazy idea. Well done.

The Hole: A neighbor suspected of foul play in a small town is digginga hole. His intentions for doing so and what the hole actually leads to is pretty surprising.

Men of Blood: A tale of a man and his lifelong friend the minotaur. I was not sure where this was headed, but the ending did not seem to fit with the rest of the story, and it was my least favorite of the bunch for this reason.

180 Degrees Shy of Heaven: A man desires a hornier wife, as many men have at one time or another. This was a clever and entertaining twist on the “be careful what you wish for “ message.

Gutterball’s Labyrinth: An unattractive and rejected man learns of the beauty he holds within.

The Whore That Broke the Camel’s Back: A love story involving a bestiality porn star, a camel and unconventional plastic surgery. This was actually touching as well, if you can believe it.

At times I feel that maybe I use the term “all time favorite” a bit too much, but right now, I don’t care. This book is one of them.​The writing was gorgeous and well done. Even within the most disturbing tales of the collection there was an intimate and touching quality that had me feeling for the characters. I am anxious to get to Craig Wallwork’s other books.

Sloughing Off The Rot by Lance Carbuncle

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review This is one hell of a fantasy adventure tale with plenty of beautifully crude humor, sex, and mind-altering substances. On the flip side, it is also intelligent. There are philosophical elements, soul searching and the quest for answers to life’s big questions. The combination of all of these elements worked very well together. I was grabbed immediately by the humor and weirdness, but happy to stay for the richness and originality of what followed.
John dreams of a voice commanding him to walk 500 miles and to now refer to himself as John the Revelator. He awakes in a cave with no idea where he is or who he used to be. He is instructed to “polish the rod with aromatic balms and oils,” the first of many scenes involving the unusual use of bodily fluids. His journey then begins. Leaving the cave, he hears an out of tune guitar being played by a man named Santiago. Santiago speaks in riddles, odd sayings and song lyrics. This is very irritating to John, who very quickly tires of the man, but needs him as a guide. They are off to a rough start from the beginning. Santiago is one my my all time favorite characters and the narrator in the audiobook does a great job portraying him.
John and Santiago must follow El Camino de la Muerte or the “Red Brick Road” until reaching the villain Android Lovethorn. John must then force Lovethorn to send him back to his previous life, which will not be an easy task. The voice of the burning bush feeds ​John bits and pieces of information about the person he used to be and why he must redeem himself in this other world along the way.
In all, this book was very easy for me to love. The characters and the surroundings they encounter are oddly unique. Their often vulgar names and characteristics are sure to stick with me for a long time. One last thought, If there really are beings called blumpkins I think I would go for a one night stand or two if anyone knows where to get one. 5/5 stars.

“Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon” by Cameron Pierce

Our Love Will Go the Way of the SalmonOur Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon by Cameron Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great reading experience! Each of these stories are somehow tied to fish, but at the center are the undeniable experiences of the main characters. Balancing nostalgia, humor, and tragedy, each tale is unlike the one before. Devoid of a single unnecessary sentence, what often seems simple at first glance shows Pierce’s true mastery of subtext. This is simply great storytelling, some of the best I have ever read.

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what if i got down on my knees by Tony Rauch

What if I got down on my knees? is a mix of poems, vignettes and short stories divided into four parts, told in an anecdotal style. The writing is very free, introspective and personal. Much of what might seem random at first becomes tangible and relatable, both when looking at each story and the cohesion of the book as a whole. Longing, regret and loneliness are often a focus, but there is more here. Much of the everyday, real life observations turn into substantial, beautiful and relevant themes of human nature.
These observations range from growing up, the changes involved, and how we deal with those changes:
“When we were younger, we were going to inflate the world, give it color and depth, but then we got too tired, worked too much, dissipated our energy, and then the world chased us away (from the idiot’s guide to morons).”
“Those kids are so lucky, they’re mostly unspoiled by life, not burdened, not burdened by their dreams, haven’t made too mistakes, haven’t had too many lies told about them or to them yet. I guess regrets are an indication you’ve lived a big life with lots of choices (from modern problems part 364,927).”
There is also a focus on the value of looking upon the past and keeping the memories that truly matter as we grow up:
“And I thought about being here so long ago, how that blackness filled me, held me in place like an ancient solid, and how it filled me to overflowing, and I’d do anything to empty some of it out, girls and drinking and yelling and running all around. But now it all seemed so empty, it all looked so blank and felt so cold, like there was nothing there at all, like it was all gone, like there was nothing left for anyone (from riding the range with the cowboy spies).”
Non-requited love also rears its’ head as a common theme for most of the characters. This is done with more than enough skill to keep it from ever becoming redundant. It was very easy to be the main character and empathize. While the 2nd half was stronger in my opinion than the first, it was original in the both sequencing of the stories and their subject matter throughout. My favorites were “In the Dust,” “I Used to Know Her,” “Modern Problems,” “Riding the Range With the Cowboy Spies,” “Hooray for all the Children,” and “How I Hope to Die.”
This book was loaded with introspective questions, struggling to balance the person inside and the one we show on the outside. What significance do we play in this thing we call life? What impression do we leave?
Tony Rauch’s voice is unique and worth the time put into reading this. When being descriptive, it was beautiful. When relaying the life experience and situations of the characters, I certainly related. 4 of 5 stars.

White White White by Ben John Smith

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The second poetry collection from BJS has all of those qualities I know and love, but also treads some new territory. When comparing to Horror Sleaze Trash, the most likely distinction would be a bit less trash and a little more beauty in the words. A few of the poems were familiar, having been released in either Warm Cup of Assholes or Turd Eye, but there is more than enough new material here to make this a worthy read. Near the end of the book there are a few short story type pieces that show a side of the author I had not seen before. They were creepy, odd, and funny while keeping me guessing. I wanted more of these and hope to see Smith do more like them in the future. 4 out of 5 stars.

<a href="http://The Four Gentlemen of the ApocalypseThe Four Gentlemen of the Apocalypse by Douglas Hackle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We begin with Douglas Hackle’s Ballad of Terror Tiny Tim. This story was the least predictable of the bunch and that is saying something considering the company he is sharing the book with. The absurdity is off the scale, and I am at a loss for where to begin. So many random occurrences and one leads to another, and another, and… To a reader not open enough to receive it, this could be seen as a detriment. For me this only added to the experience.
Dustin Reade’s The Canal was the funniest of the four. A man with an interest in taxidermy makes a “suit made of cat”. He embodies the feline persona to a ridiculous degree, and the story really takes off from there. Besides the humor, there are themes of loneliness and isolation that all together made this one even stronger. The ending wrapped this one up perfectly for me.
Next, G. Arthur Brown’s I Took One Apple to the Grave is a strange tale that is both intriguing and very hard to describe. While grounded in a bit of folklore, there is nothing traditional about it. There is an attention to detail that shines through. Things tended to wrap around each other. I was pulled along, never quite being able to tell what was coming next. In all, the results were pretty unique and the more I let this one sink in, the more I enjoyed it.
Last, my favorite of the book was S.T. Cartledge’s Wizard and Robot in the Land of Sand and Bones. Both magical and majestic, there is a specific way that this is written, and I was instantly pulled in. The world building and the degree to which Cartledge can write from the point of view of such unique, non-human characters is mindblowing. You become the girl robot. You are the wizard made of glass. You experience everything just as they do.
Considering all of the authors involved and the anticipation I had for this book, I took my time with it, and am happy I did. The stories fit well together and amount to a solid first release from Strange Edge Publications.

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