Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor

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Little Paranoias is a short story collection form horror author Sonora Taylor, a collection that is gripping, original and bang on the money for those that prefer the dark slice of horror.
What I loved about the collection is that it is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction and this device that is used by Taylor to great effect, helps to inject a readability to Little Paranoias that drives the reader through (I read this collection in a day), it’s like you’re ravenous and this is the food you have been waiting so long to taste, and once you’ve had that first bite, you then gorge yourself on this bountiful offering.
Little Paranoias is a stunning little collection and one that is highly original, there are not any stories in this that you think ‘oh, I’ve seen that before!’ everything is unique and told with delightfully beautiful prose, it showcases a writer perfectly, because that’s what I see collections as, an advert for a writer and on this offering Sonora Taylor will be one of those writers that I follow carefully from now on – I already have a novel by her called ‘Seeing Things’ and I’ll be looking to read anything else she puts out.
So on with the review.
Little Paranoias – The collection opens with the title piece which is a poem, it’s short, four very short sentences but gets across what this collection is going to be like, so strap yourselves in for the ride, it’s going to be bumpy!
 
‘She’d forever be in mourning, even when Cecily became nothing but dust. Skeletons were supposed to disappear in graveyards. Only memories were supposed to fade in houses.’
Weary Bones – What would we give for a second life, a chance to come back when we died? That’s what this story delves into, a miracle vial that can give its recipient a second life. Families with terminally ill children could have another chance, a child could live out the life they were robbed of, husbands and wives widowed could start over again and love the one they love again, those lost to cruel accidents could have yet another chance at life. But is the price of a second life worth the cost, because this vial has some strange side effects. Sometimes Dead is Better (to quote King). A beautiful story that keeps on giving long after you’ve finished.
 
‘She thought the serum would give them both a second life. Cecily lived, but Marion perpetually grieved, reminded every day of the daughter she’d lost.’
 
Never Walk Alone – is the first flash fiction piece and this centres on a paranoid girl walking home alone – this has everything I love about flash fiction, Sorona Taylor has crafted up a gem here with so little words it’s mind blowing… so much story for such a small slice of horror!
A Part Of You – Another slice of Flash Fiction – this time the theme is matricide (it’s not a spoiler) this piece is fast and weird and a beautiful atrocity. It’s familial horror which I love, something that sums this story up perfectly is something my mother used to say ‘I brought you into this world and I can damn sure take you out of it!’ – I never really got on with my mother.
 
Crust – Flash again is used to great affect. This one is about a daughter and mother, the daughter is always striving to appease her cantankerous judgemental mother. There is some familial hurt here again, the type of constant putting down which makes for some baking good horror. This story in particular had me reminiscing about the very best of Roald Dahl’s adult fiction and Sonora Taylor writes this story to within an inch of its life; a perfect piece of flash!
 
The Note on the Door – A strange note appears on a door which a commuter passes each day, she’s ignored it for a few days but now she’s going to see what it says. This is a short Venus flytrap of a story – I can’t elaborate more but I think you’ll get the analogy once you’ve read it. Another brilliant piece of flash.
Always in my Ear – A true Crime podcast that places it’s listeners in the driving seat / victim / witness / murderer; they can be anything they want to as long as they keep on listening to the voice that’s whispering in their ear. A deftly crafted story and when I was thinking about this story and how one would even conceive it, it just boggles the mind, because it’s masterful. Terrific imagination here and some gruesome bloody violence. It follows a childhood friendship that grows apart but their secret, their dark secret of killing, of looking death in the face remains.
As Quick As Poison – Honestly, I wasn’t a fan – it had a creepy Freddy Kruger type vibe (you know that rhyme – and now I’ve said it, good luck getting that out of your head today!), but for me, it was lacking something and didn’t seem to find a connection with it. But it’s poetry (I’m not a huge fan anyway) so I usually find myself not one to judge that.
Cranberry – This story come with a disclaimer at the very start, and for good reason. It strikes hard and wounds the reader, and in today’s society it makes for urgent reading. With what I see plastered all over YouTube and having two young girls, and with my wife working with young girls about body image and other such subject, this story is something I feel young people should be reading or have access to. This body image culture that YouTube and other social media outlets allow to pollute young girls and young boys minds about what they should look like and what is the perfect body and that anything that diverges from this ‘approved’ way of looking is an abomination needs to stop. This stories themes centre around a eating disorder and body image / body dysmorphia – it’s really powerful stuff.
Drops – The things left unsaid in this familial horror are quite hard to swallow, and had me asking a hell load of questions.
Snowfall – This was more a mythical horror, akin to something the Brothers Grimm would have written, it’s short and it had me wanting to know more about this almost folklore type situation. You could read this story two ways, straight laced horror or as I did, I took it down a more folklore vibe – I’m assuming either way you read it, it’ll blow your boots off!
Death is a Hunter – The forest comes to a young woman’s aid when she encounters a problem that she can’t get out of – I enjoyed it, but not as much as the other flash pieces so far.
Quadrapocalypse – The four elements; Earth, Fire, Wind and Water go to town in this masterful apocalyptic vision which is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. A very interesting vision and a take on the genre that’s brought to life superbly by Taylor, very enjoyable and highly original.
Hollow – Here we have the creepy doll trope used to great effect by Taylor, it’s again unique and fabulously rendered. A bullied girl fiercely protects her only friend a porcelain doll called Mrs. Sassafras.
Stick Figure Family – A creepy piece of flash and I’d say one of the best stories in the collection (for me) that had a devastating impact. Sonora Taylor has single handedly destroyed the way I will look at those stupid stick figure decals that people have stuck to their rear windows denoting who is in their family. Every time I will see one from now on I will think of this story – now how many times can you say that about a piece of fiction.
Hearts are just ‘’Likes’’ – This story reads like ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ for the YouTube / social media obsessed generation – such a powerful piece about finding your worth in likes online and how a social media presence can be a dangerous thing indeed if that becomes the place you find your value and your worth in life. A stunning short story and one of my favourite in the collection. As a father of two girls and who’s put his foot down to Tic Tock and other mind numbing rubbish, this story further cements my belief in chasing the approval of others online is a dark path I don’t want my children venturing into for as long as I can help it.
Perfection in Shadow – A man reflects about his past girlfriends, wishing he could create his own perfect woman from the shadows.
Salt – A wife gets a phone call she hadn’t expected from the police about her husband. This is a fabulously crafted tale that keeps the reader on tenterhooks – deftly crafted and grisly a little gem of a story.
Seed – Reminded me of Ali Shaw and ‘The Trees’. An apocalyptic nightmare where the plants have taken over the world, where what we used to harvest is reaping a harvest of its own. A very interesting and original take on the apocalypse and the world building in such a short story is brilliant. This one has some hot sex scenes in it too, which if that’s your thing, check it out. I like how this story mirrors what happens in Quadrapocalypse – could it be a continuation of that story, I guess I’ll never know.
He trapped my thoughts inside my head – Another poem to bookend the collection. As I said I’m not a huge fan of this type of poetry but a nice end to the collection.
A stunning offering from Taylor which showcases her immeasurable skill as a raconteur of all things horror. With prose that is often on fire this is a delightful and masterful slice of creepy / horror short fiction that will have you scratching at your arms once you’ve finished as you look for your next intoxicating hit of Sonora Taylor.
Little Paranoias is available here.

Sonora Taylor

Sonora Taylor is the award-winning author of Little Paranoias: Stories, Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short stories have appeared in multiple publications, including Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, Kandisha Press’s Women of Horror Vol. 2: Graveyard Smash, The Sirens Call, Frozen Wavelets, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast. Her latest book, Seeing Things, is now available on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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