Sorry so long. Collections are a pain in the bum to review.
Slush is a collection of short horror and dark fiction and the forward to the stories tantalizes:
These stories will make you feel real, feel alive, feel creeped out, feel entertained, BUT the key word here is FEEL.
Most books only succeed in making me feel bored, aggravated or frustrated or nothing at all. So it was with no great amount fear that I turned the first page of Slush, afraid if it didn’t make me feel something that I may truly be dead inside.
So here goes.
Skull of Snakes
It’s the summer of ’89 and young Lennie and his pals have the whole summer ahead of them. On the way to a parade, Lennie picks up an old coin that is oddly decorated with a skull full of snakes. He drops it in his pocket and forgets about it. Then some very bad things begin to happen to those closest to Lennie and he remembers the coin and realizes that it may be cursed. Now his carefree summer will forever be marred by tragedy and loss. Note to self: don’t ever pick up that shiny penny, life is tough enough without tacking on a curse. Action drives this story and I would’ve preferred a few quieter moments for Lennie to catch his breath and process some of the grief. It could’ve been a tear-jerker but it wasn’t. 3.5 stars
Sweet Sixteen This is a disturbing short tale of first love and lost innocence. Love goes good until it’s not so good. Then horror ensues. All in the name of true love, of course. This story is kind of a screw you to fickle young love and one can almost feel for the boy, if he weren’t crazier than Norman Bates. Though very short, the opening paragraph gives it all away which was a bit of a letdown but I am the type who runs screaming from spoilers so you have to take that into consideration. 3.5 stars
Jackie Boy This story is gloriously grisly and one of my favorites in the collection. Jackie Boy has found a rather unique way to dispose of the rats bothering his beloved horse. Turns out Jackie is quite the resourceful, if very creepy, little man. This one is bursting with gory fun. I don’t know what this says about me but I loved it for its in-your-face, more than slightly disturbing, grossness. 5 stars
The Curse Five students plan revenge on their evil coach. Coach Haggis has managed to torment generations of teens with nary a complaint to administration. She’s a terrifying old bitch, I’ll give her that, but I found this mighty suspicious. From the Courtney Love lyrics I’m setting this smack in the 90’s when kids weren’t so helicoptered and tried my best to let it go (admittedly not my strongest point). Instead of telling anyone in authority about the abuse, they seek out the local hermit/rumored witch because, you know, that’s always a fantastic idea. She thrusts a be-spelled candle at them and sends them on their way. Revenge ensues. To be honest, this one wasn’t my favorite. I found it too predictable and the characters too stereotypical. Can’t win ‘em all, right? 2.5 stars
The Delicious Death of Parker Stevens Already creeped out after watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a friend, Parker’s head definitely wasn’t in the right place to walk home alone through the woods. He starts hearing weird sounds and tries his best to shrug it off. This is one horror scenario where I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had run back to his friend’s house shrieking in terror.
Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz Just woodsy sounds. Perfectly normal.
Click, click, click Animals in the woods, he tells himself.
“Boy,” a raspy voice whispered. Uh oh, that’s probably not any species of animal he wants to meet in the dark!
“Boy,” she repeated. “Come to us.”
Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz And out of the woods the creatures come. . .
This one made me cringe in all the right places. It was deliciously evil just as promised. 4 stars
I’m In Here This one is terribly unsettling and manages to achieve that in only a few paragraphs. That’s all I’m saying. It made me feel sad (whew, guess my soul is still intact!). 4.5 Stars
Henry Oooo, here comes the body horror!
Poor Henry is 13 and suddenly stricken with a severe case of acne. He can’t dare face the girl of his dreams looking like a pus filled beast and decides to take drastic measures to remedy the situation. With His Daddy’s Shiny New Razor. Henry has no beard. Ponder that, if you will.
I had to actually look away from this story because I did not want to see what was coming. But then I looked again (the things I do for you people) and yep, it’s just as awful as you can imagine. 4.5 Stars
Something Lost This is a short tale of grief and the importance of musical memories. Not horror but very moving all the same. 4 Stars
Ballad of the Best-Selling Author A bitter horror fan/struggling writer butts heads with a smug hipster who has made a fortune peddling zombie tripe. The struggling novelist shows him the meaning of real horror and the comeuppance is kind of glorious. 4.5 stars
Candle Magic This is a super short rumination on the magical qualities of the candle. Not enough here to rate.
Flaws I did not enjoy this story. One day a man awakens with the urge to start snuffing out the lives of innocents.
Why and why now? I don’t rightly know. A bit more insight into his head would’ve made this go down easier. As written, we’re basically forced to watch him as he does terrible, horrible things to innocent creatures. I’d like to unread it, please. It was unpleasant and too dark and terrible even for the likes of me. 1.5 stars
Halloween Worm This story makes up for the last one. A young boy is coerced into helping the town bully get revenge against an old man who gave him a worm infested apple the previous Halloween. A nasty surprise awaits them. This story is pure gory fun and a great way to end the collection. 4.5 stars
So, yeah, these stories made me feel all sorts of things. Some good, some not so good and that’s why I read horror. Guess the soul is still intact for the moment.
*I was given a copy of this book to review for Horror After Dark.