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Tag Archives: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
FULL DISCLOSURE: The editor and publisher of this anthology, Robert J. Duperre, occasionally writes reviews for Shock Totem. The book also features work from Duperre as well as stories from Shock Totem publisher K. Allen Wood and editor Mercedes M. Yardley.
While horror has traditionally been associated with gore and the supernatural, it often finds it’s most fertile soil in ordinary themes that we are truly frightened of.
We can all enjoy stories about vampires or zombies, but those things don’t scare us much because no matter how skilled the author is at creating what Coleridge referred to as the “suspension of disbelief” we know that we can put the book down and walk away from it knowing that those things are not real.
But we’ve all been lonely. Even the most misanthropic among us would find it difficult if not impossible to survive in a state of total isolation. It’s why of all the cruel and unusual punishments we inflict on criminals, one of the most feared is solitary confinement, which can often create symptoms of psychosis in otherwise normal inmates.
In The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair, published by T.R.O. Publishing, editor Robert J. Duperre offers us a varied assortment of horror tales. Some of them have supernatural elements, others don’t. Some are grim, some are humorous, some are creepy. The common thread running through these stories is the theme of isolation. It tinges the humor with sadness and makes the supernatural more believable.
This is a great collection. Some stories I liked better than others, of course, but none were duds, a relative rarity among independent anthologies. I especially liked how each author approached the theme of isolation from such different angles. Each story is also accompanied by a full-page illustration by Jesse David Young.
In the first story, “Plastic,” author J.L. Bryan gives us a funny and poignant take on the post-apocalyptic man who finds himself alone theme that we’ve all seen before. Bryan’s version is a fresh spin on the common topic, and genuinely comical. Daniel Pyle’s “Night-Night” is a nifty little story that kept its twist well hidden.
In one of the most literary stories, Steven Pirie offers us a gut-wrenching insight into the casual cruelties that many people inflict on people who are isolated within themselves by severe injuries. All of the stories here are well written, but Steve’s “Does Laura Like Elephants?” stands out as a real gem.
K. Allen Wood’s “The Candle Eaters” is a classic and very effective look at a Halloween tradition with an unusual spin. And in one of the creepiest stories of the volume, Mercedes M. Yardley offers us “Black Mary,” a very effective story that I really can’t summarize without giving it away. You’ll just have to get a hold of this volume and read it along with all the rest for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.