Short review in this world of Tweets and sound bites: get this book.
For a slightly longer review, how about this: get this great book full of good stories brought together for a great cause. Seriously, getting this book is as win/win as it gets.
Still here? Good, then you’re a reader, and as such you owe it to yourself to get this book. Why? Well it could be that it collects 28 tales of psychological horror. Five of the stories are reprints, the rest are original to this book. I could also point out some of the more recognizable names collected here like Jack Ketchum, Gary Braunbeck, Gene O’Neill, Gary McMahon, Gord Rollo, Jeff Strand, Michael Bailey. However I would be remiss if I also didn’t say I was equally impressed with the offerings from whole bunch of authors whose names I didn’t immediately recognize. That’s a very good thing in my book (and in this books too) as fresh voices in horror are always welcome. Lastly I could tell you that all proceeds of Chiral Mad go to various Down syndrome charities and in these tough economic times, that’s a wonderful thing. When it gets tough for people’s pocketbooks, charities are among the first things many folks cut from their budget. But here, not only can you do some good for a great cause, but you end up with a whole bunch of horror stories sure to keep you up at night. As I said; that’s win/win.
Now in Chiral Mad you won’t find many blood sucking vampires, corpse eating zombies, or world destroying Lovecraftian monstrosities. Instead, more often than not, you’ll experience the everyday, almost mundane horrors that we all know and loath set in a surreal landscape. Here their familiarity of such things does not breed contempt, but creeping dread, and I could not be happier for it.
Every story is well written but not all of them wowed me. I chalk that up to a matter of different tastes, not that they were actually poor stories. So I’m sure that even the ones that left me feeling sort of “meh” will find their fans out there. Here is a smattering of some of some of my favorites to highlight the variety of tales that await you in this book.
First and foremost, if you want psychological horror, it’s hard to beat the stories of Jack Ketchum. The man has built an impressive and critically applauded career by writing fiercely horrific tales about real life monsters in our midst. Here Jack gives us, “Amid the Walking Wounded”, and while a bit more sci-fi than most of Ketchum’s stories, it still delivers the goods handily.
Remember those everyday horrors I was talking about before? Well R.B. Payne pulls that off beautifully with “Cubicle Farm” where the all too familiar hell of office drudgery is examined with wonderful results.
I don’t think Gary Braunbeck has ever disappointed me with one of his stories and his tale here, “Need” is no exception to that. It’s weird and dark and downright depressing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Gary McMahon’s gives us a reason to be frightened of forgotten photographs, a neat mystery, and plenty of paranoia with his “Some Pictures in an Album.”
“The Bad Season” by A. A. Garrison gives us a glimpse of a mad man’s mind on the brink of committing multiple murders that was truly memorable.
There are more great stories to be found between the covers of Chiral Mad, but I’ll leave those little slices of life as seen through a gaze set firmly askew for you to discover yourself. This if a good book of horror tales and that alone would get a recommendation out of me. But when you add the good karma aspect that you’re helping out a deserving charity then it becomes a highly recommended book by me. Like I said at the start of this review: get this book.
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