Hunger Pangs by Scott J. Moses

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Hunger Pangs is the debut collection from Scott J. Moses, a new voice in horror for me but a collection that dredges the very depths of horror, you can tell from reading this varied collection that Moses is a person that has been moulded by horror his entire life. There are stories that are vampiric in nature, that deal with lycanthopy, the living dead, voodoo and paranormal; then you get your generic haunting stories but given new life, possession stories but not like you’ve read before and a whole host of other dark and macabre offerings.

The collection for me works on so many different levels given the varying lengths of short story with some flash fiction too, but each offering is a bite-sized terror that needs to be eagerly consumed.

Now, with all collections there are stories that affect the reader more than others, but with Hunger Pangs, every story pretty much hits its mark (although there were a few stories that seemed similar, stories that shared the same tropes of the genre, but I enjoyed them nevertheless) – also what I found to be one of the best bits about this collection was that before each story Moses details to us where the story came from and when he wrote it – this personal aspect of the book really helped to give me a glimpse of this new talent and showcased that from the normal, the mundane, horror can issue forth at any given moment, you just have to capture it – and that’s what Moses does, time and time again!

As with all my reviews that focus on collections, I will pick a handful of stories to discuss, given the length and the number in the collection. It would do a disservice to the collection and the author if I spend too much time discussing his crafted tales and spoil the enjoyment for you, the reader (this is what I hope to be a spoiler free review). So below are a couple of the stories that I loved, it was hard to pick but these were the few that floated to the surface for me!

Nowhere, Louisiana – for me this story read like early Stephen King (come on we all know that’s his best patch) and this particular story had me reminiscing about Pet Sematary (it’s a fabulously dark and creepy tale to start the collection). It bowled me over, I loved the whole aspect of this dastardly tale – as we get the old hitchhiker trope which has been flogged to death in the horror genre (both in film and literature) but Moses creates something new here, breathes new life into this warn out trope and creates something that is emotionally charged whilst also dredging the very depths of the soul and our internal yearnings. Moses also weaves into the story an element of Voodoo, leaving much to the readers mind (he doesn’t sugarcoat anything for us here) and in doing so has created quite the uncanny tale. I love what we learn through the prose and the hinted backstory without having it all spelled out for us, and in keeping things hidden, and the slow understanding we come realise, we see that Moses has created an eerie tale that kick-starts a memorable collection.

‘Before she left for the bathroom, my sister asked me to murder her.’

Cruel, Baying Adolescence – When I finished this story I had to reach out to Moses and tell him how good it was (it’s important for me to tell writers what I love about there work – as a writer myself when someone reaches out personally and tells me about a story of mine, it blows me away – so this is something I tend to do quite often). What I didn’t count on was that I was the first person to actually guess what the story was about and what one of the main protagonist was. It’s a familial tale, that deals with lycanthropy (it’s not a spoiler as it’s right there in the prose) but again Moses does a great job of hiding his brilliance, and letting the reader come up with their own thoughts (as sometimes these inner thoughts can be worse than what’s on the page) and Moses gets this, all his stories have that hidden quality and it shows that Moses also understands the old phrase of what you don’t see is often scarier than what you do see. But Cruel, Baying Adolescence adds to the lycanthropy myth in ways that have not been seen before, it’s quite brilliant and oh so refreshing. I found that the brother and sister relationship were perfectly rendered and believable; dysfunctional in a way that most brother and sister relationships are, and their chatting the fat was also masterfully rendered and it had me thinking of late 80’s early 90’s horror films – it’s fabulous and I loved it… it’s got a readability to it that swallows you whole, like many of the stories in the collection; and I feel that this particular story if Moses wishes could be expanded to make a great novella or novel.

Hunger Pangs – There is an author note at the beginning of this story, like all the stories within the collection and this note details that this particular story was rejected for not being horror enough and was then rejected for being too literary (how many times do we hear of greatness not being recognised – and that is what is happening here, I have no doubt about it) but if I were to offer one piece of advice to Moses it would be not to listen to the crowd, because this was one mighty fine offering and I for one am thirsty, or should I say hungry for more! Hunger Pangs contains some of the best writing in the collection, it’s a vampiric story but with a very different take on that trope of the horror genre. It was the perfect blend of Ann Rice, Lindqvist and What We Do In The Shadows, adding wonderfully to the genre but whilst also making it a unique offering. I’d personally read a whole book based on the premise that he gets across in this tremendous story. The characters were perfect and I just wanted to know more about the snippets of information that Moses deftly places within his prose and narrative – so please Moses turn this into a novella or a novel or even a series!

Hunger Pangs is a great introduction to Scott J. Moses and with many of the stories within the collection making me want more from him as a writer, I for one can’t wait to see what he does with a novella or a novel. Many of the stories within this collection are ripe and worthy of being extended, so I wouldn’t be too shocked to see some of these given a longer outing in the near future – and I for one would champion that, and I’d be the first in line to grab a copy. On the whole Hunger Pangs is a great debut collection with some fabulous stories thrown into the mix, that showcase perfectly a writer with a bright future in horror writing.

Hunger Pangs is available here.

Scott J. Moses

Scott J. Moses is a Baltimorean writer of horror and dark fiction. His short fiction has appeared in STORGY, The Cabinet of Heed, Coffin Bell, and elsewhere. Hunger Pangs is his debut collection.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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