Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Onyx Neon Shorts Presents: Horror Collection 2015 - Book Review

Onyx Neon Shorts Presents: Horror Collection - 2015Onyx Neon Shorts Presents: Horror Collection - 2015 by M.J. Wesolowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Onyx Neon Shorts Presents: Horror Collection - 2015 offers thirteen solid horror stories, many of them written by authors of a literary bent. The collection appears to be the first in an annual series of collected, short horror stories, published by Onyx Neon Shorts, a branch of independent publisher Onyx Neon Press.

The book's editors are Jacob Michael King (author of Postmortem) and Jeffrey P. Martin (Head Editor of Onyx Neon Shorts). The contributors include MJ Wesolowski
, Brit Jones, Franklin Charles Murdock, Jackie Woodard, Tracy Fahey, Elizabeth Myrrdin, DJ Tyrer, B.T. Joy
, Jeremy Thompson
, Matt Tveter, Joseph Rubas, and Ro McNulty. Many of these authors hail from the UK.

Much of the work presented in this collection demonstrates good plot and character development. An apt example is the lead story, Wesolowski’s “Ellie Hill.” Set in the fells of Northeastern England, it tells a cautionary tale about defacing the site of a cursed event. It focuses on the interactions of three newly-arrived students on their first day at university. On a nighttime drinking outing, the loud and extroverted Myles competes with the quiet and introverted narrator for the affections of Amy, a pretty young woman whose quietness hides a playful nature. Their destination is a pub (the “Slaughtered Lamb”) in the nearby rural town of Ellie Hill.

The narrator suggests this destination, even though he knows that it is rumored to harbor an ancient curse, when Myles suggests to his residence hall mates that they go on an “adventure.” The narrator has never been to Ellie Hill himself, but knows of its legend of “Ellie’s Chair” from a family story, which contains the admonition, “You must never go there.” Unfortunately, his desire to impress Amy overwhelms his better judgment. The trio’s drinking at the Slaughtered Lamb leads to a game of “truth or dare” that has catastrophic consequences for all three when it leads them to Ellie’s Chair.

Wesolowski develops the conflicting relationships among the three students with lively dialogue, while at the same time using his narrator’s observations to introduce the legend of Ellie Hill in increasingly frightening bits and pieces. His imagery is rich, evoking a clear vision of Ellie Hill’s eldritch features in the reader’s mind. The horror of Ellie Hill’s past sublimates clearly into the present of the story.

The historical past is just one of the sources of horror in this collection. For example, Jones’ “82 Rungs,” is a claustrophobic horror tale with science-fiction features. Murdock’s “What Little Remains” is a fresh take on the serial killer story that will also leave the reader gasping for air. Tyrer uses the Raggedy Man legend in “Syvia’s Pictures,” which introduces the creepy child character of Sylvia, a “little Goth girl” whose darkly imaginative drawings turn into terror-filled reality. Fahey’s “Something Nasty in the Woodshed” explores devastating effects of finding out that one’s partner in life is not what he seems, using abduction and torture as horror tropes. “Up in the Window” (Myrddin) draws the reader’s attention to the uncanny in everyday life. Its narrator is obsessed with a figure that appears in the same position in a particular apartment building’s window -- no matter what time of day or night. Who -- or what -- is it?

“Sacrificial Version” is probably one of the most bizarre tales in this collection. Thompson combines a time- and space-traveling trope with some of the most unusual cult-like groups and settings that I have read. Like Tyrer, he employs a fictional evil figure that lingers in the background of the story until it breaks into reality to wreak evil on the world. The way in which Thompson works this figure into the narrator’s story arc is quite devious. Readers should pay close attention to their reactions to the narrator as they read this cleverly constructed tale.

Not all of the remaining stories in this volume are as strong as those that have been mentioned. However, there is not one badly written tale in the lot. Fans of short horror fiction will find this volume well worth an investment of their reading time and book money. This horror collection can be found on Amazon.

Disclosure: Author Jeremy Thompson, one of the contributors to Onyx Neon Shorts Presents: Horror Collection - 2015, provided this reviewer with a free copy of the e-book for review purposes. No financial considerations were involved.

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