The Shadow Booth has once again graced this world with its presence. In the first volume we found it on a pier, now we find “The Shadow Booth Vol 2” buried underneath the sand near some dunes. You think after the first volume we would have learned to turn and run. Instead, we dive in head first to soak up the haunting tales hidden within. This time we find stories of arctic expeditions, lost children, friends facing loss, and so many ghosts. Editor Dan Coxon discovered twelve pieces that go from pure dread to that weird place where you can’t help but laugh at the terrible things you are seeing.
If I were to compare the two volumes I think I would probably pick this one. I think these stories had just a bit more heart and more terror. I don’t know if the authors saw what Coxon picked in volume one and therefore had something to aim for or if Coxon had found his groove and ran with it. Either way, the energy in here is palpable, hooking you and dragging you to the end.
With most collections, you’ll run across one or two stories that just doesn’t sit well with you. It’s not to say they are bad, they just might not be your cup of tea. Volume Two is no exception to this, a few of the stories had weak endings or lacked the strength to match the rest. They didn’t ruin the book; the good definitely outweighed the bad. Besides, the great thing with short stories is that they are short, so you can work your way through one you don’t like and find the next one to be your favorite.
Now to highlight a couple of stories that have stuck with me and haunted my thoughts…
“Monkeys on the Beach” by Ralph Robert Moore felt like someone relaying their horrible vacation. You won’t find anything supernatural or overtly horror, instead you are faced with a series of events that all could appear on a list of worst things to happen travel show. A husband, his new wife, and his two kids are on a getaway at an unnamed island. At first it could read like a drama involving a step-mother trying to gain the love of her step-children. But, Moore throws up a series of roadblocks that quickly turn this vacation something terrifying. According to a recent conversation with Coxon, this story has split a lot of people’s opinions, either people love it or hate it. Personally I loved the realness of the story and idea that these things could actually happen.
Aliya Whiteley’s “Ear to Ear” reads like a creepy, fun, modern-day fairy tale. The concept is bizarre and unsettling, but will probably bring a smile to your face(if you happen to be weird like me). Barbara works with her dad at his butcher shop, helping customers and watching the store when her dad is away. She also happens to have a tunnel going through her head. It doesn’t bother her, she can de-bone a chicken in eighteen seconds, sings while serving up meat, and is content with her life. However, as you might imagine, some customers find the hole a little off-putting. A group of women patrons come up with a plan to “help” the poor girl. Whiteley’s description of Barbara inserting things into the tunnel will probably make you squirm. It’s unsettling and weird, but by the end you love this sweet little story.
“We Are The Disease,” from Gareth Rees, is the perfect story for fans of “The Thing” or “The Terror.” A science expedition has gone up to the Arctic to study an algae bloom under the ice. After global warming has ruined the Earth and its food supply, the hope is to use the algae as a new food source. However, as the team takes samples of the bloom they get a distress call from an abandoned ship. And while you might have an idea of what is going to happen, I can tell you that it does go in a different direction. I thoroughly enjoyed this gruesome body horror story. Rees took the concept of Arctic horror and delivered something fresh and mind bending.
I am really happy to see this series continue. Each story is a stellar work of disturbing art. The dread and unease oozes out of the pages, creeping up on you until you find yourself wondering if you are insane for loving what you are reading. I just hope that when volume three comes out we are smart enough to know what’s in store for us when we see the Shadow Booth in front of us. Will we enter it to experience the stories or will we run as fast as we can in the opposite direction?
Tales from the Shadow Booth vol 2 is available to purchase here.
Chikodili Emelumadu, Dan Grace, Kirsty Logan, Johnny Mains, Ralph Robert Moore, Mark Morris, Gareth E. Rees, Giovanna Repetto, George Sandison, Anna Vaught & Aliya Whiteley
Reviewed by Matt Brandenberg
The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition
Mallum Colt, proprietor of Colt’s Curiosity Shop, invites authors to explore the sinister shadows and crooked streets of his once splendid town of Shallow Creek.
Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.
These items shall act as a source of inspiration as Mallum Colt guides his guests through Shallow Creek and reveals the secrets and stories of a town bereft of sleep.
For more information and full terms and conditions click here…
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
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