Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 2
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Tag Archives: Fiction
Devil’s Island, by C.M. Saunders, is a slow-burning psychological horror novel set in the UK. It is the story of Davon Rice, a soldier who has just returned from active military duty. Acclimating to civilian life again has proven extremely difficult. He spends most of his days in and out of the unemployment office, searching for the right job. With no qualifications to do anything but night security, and no car to do even that, he feels trapped and frustrated.
When he happens upon a strange email, an invitation to be the sole inhabitant and caretaker of a government facility on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, he thinks he has finally found what he has been looking for. After a short time there, though, he realizes he isn’t alone. There’s something else living on the island. Davon can feel it. It’s stalking him and aching to get inside.
Saunders writes a very believable character in Davon Rice. It is an intimate and sometimes scary picture of what life is like for soldiers returning home from war. Saunders paints the settings of the facility and surrounding island in vivid details, which made me feel like I was right there with Rice, experiencing everything right along with him. At every page, I felt Rice’s solidarity, loneliness, and paranoia; it reminded me of watching Sam Rockwell’s character maintain the space station in the movie Moon, minus Kevin Spacey’s AI, Gerty.
The majority of the story unfolds slowly, taking on a pace more reminiscent of literary fiction, building character slowly through monotonous routines, flashbacks, and internal conflict. I felt that this slow burn took too long to retain any external conflict, and I often lost interest in the story. Despite his flaws, I liked the character, and I understood what drove him to take the job on the island. Unfortunately, I spent pages and chapters wondering when something was going to happen. When it finally did, though, the story moved at a swift pace, and it sucked me right back in.
Devil’s Island has many unexpected elements, some executed better than others (the ending definitely caught me by surprise). If you’re looking for a short, psychologically-driven story, then go ahead and pick this one up; but if your reading aesthetic requires something a little more action-driven, this may not be a story for you.
Sometimes in one’s life, you run across an author whose vision you see clearly, as if your minds are somehow connected across the vast expanse of the universe. The author’s voice resonates in your mind, the words he or she places upon the written page are the entirety of your hopes and dreams, your nightmares, your fears, your sorrows, your ideals, and perhaps the longing for a happy ending that you know your own life may not have in store.
For myself, that author is Ben Duiverman. The man has captured my soul, has given to me a mirror through which I can gaze and see the humanity that lies within with startling clarity. His writing is that of a fever dream, a never-ending kaleidoscope of terror, introspection, and eventual acquiescence that permeates my own thoughts each and every day.
What Happened Here? is a collection of seventeen stories, each of which ponder the universal questions that we all ask daily. Be it a question of duty, as in “The Sweeper” or “Lost Over Tokyo,” or the issue of culpability and its price, be it historical or otherwise, and its grip over our hearts, like “The Gathering Place” (the greatest story in the entire book), “The Battle of the Bulge,” “Never Late for Work,” or “An Unnatural Death,” each story resonating, building upon the next, constructing a wall of emotional bricks that, by the time you are done reading, is destined to be torn down.
There are inquiries into the depths of darkness that reside in the hearts and minds of each of us, such as “Trick or Treat,” “The Circus Is in Town,” “A Family Portrait,” and “My Domain.” And there are even those that cast a critical eye on society itself, like the deliciously haunting “Dining with Sharks.” And with “Bogeymen,” perhaps the most frightening of all the stories, the author paints (literally and figuratively) the image of the fate which may await us all, and illustrates with startling ambiguity how we very well may be the unwitting authors of our own demise. As in “A Two-Way Street” and “Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” selfishness leads to self-wrought destruction, the bane of man since the beginning of the human race.
This volume, published by the author himself, is truly a great and worthwhile read. It is a paragon of creation and subsequent deconstruction, a masterful work of art using the written word to tear down what we know of reality and to then build it once more in ways we may not have thought of before. Duiverman is a master storyteller, an author with something to say, whose own inner turmoil is laid out for the whole world to see, if we should be brave enough to take that leap along with him. Reading this was a unique and wholly rewarding experience for this reviewer, and it is my hope that any who stumble across this review will take the plunge as well.