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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Short Story Review: City Of Screams, Extraction and Into The Mirror Black

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OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: City Of Screams is the prequel short story to the horror-thriller saga that will begin in 2013, the Blood Gospel series. It is a collaboration between James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell and I had previously blogged about it here in regards to its origins and build-up. The collaboration is a first time effort for both authors involved and so it will be very interesting to see how they align their strengths to bring forth this monster. City of Screams was released in the week of Halloween and the blurb details the type of story it is.

Basically it has to do with sergeant Jordan Stone and his team that get sent to this small town in Afghanistan called Shahr-e-Gholghola, to find out more about a recent massacre. The story title while giving a veritable clue about the story is also the name of the town that the team has to go to. The story is very viscerally setup as the reader is told about the history of the region and why the horrid name as well. The reader is then dropped into the happenings and we get to learn a bit about what Jordan Stone and his team is capable of. The story is a very nice mix of horror and thriller genres and only serves to highlight the potential of the upcoming series.

Things which I liked about this short story are the things that I expect from any James Rollins novel, quick paced story, action-packed events and a new geographical location. This short story bears his classical signature and also shows a seamless story wherein it’s hard to pinpoint who wrote which part. I think this is always a good sign in such efforts and reminds me of other great author duos such Douglas Preston-Lincoln Child and Ilona Andrews. The only shortcoming I felt this story has was that this was written purely to serve as a prequel to the main storyline. I don’t know whether and if the events of this story will impact much of the major storyline in the books to come but that’s something all of us will have to discover ourselves.

This short story comes highly recommended as it showcases the strength of both writers and also gives us a strong indication to check out the forthcoming Blood Gospel series. Check it out if you love horror, James Rollins, Rebecca Cantrell and/or all of the above. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Extraction is possibly the first short story written by this acclaimed duo and which also features their signature character Aloysius X. L. Pendergast. I am very much enjoying the current Helen Pendergast trilogy and waiting to see what kind of end the authors have planned in Two Graves, that releases in December. When this short story was announced, I was very intrigued for two major reasons:
 (a) because it was set in the past and focuses on the childhood of the Pendergast brothers in New Orleans
 (b) Secondly because it featured the author’s variation on the tooth fairy tale and going by Relic & Reliquary, it’s very apparent that Messrs. Preston-Child are masters at writing horror.

The story is actually set in the events prior to the beginning of the Helen Pendergast trilogy and begins by Pendergast reminiscing about his childhood and the strange variation of the tooth fairy story that had taken root in their neighborhood. In the story, we meet a Aloysius who is ten years old and his brother Diogenes who is a mere six. The tale that goes around in their neighborhood is that for every child that loses their tooth, they have to give it to Maurus Dufour, for if not he will come to get you. With such a ludicrous premise, the tale however gains strong ground and Diogenes upon losing a tooth decides to give into the tradition. His older brother Aloysius however refuses to bow onto this ridiculous fashion and decides to stop Diogenes from doing so. This is the impetus of the story as to what happens after Aloysius chooses to disregard the local legend and from thereon things take a very weird turn.

This story on paper has the makings of a great story however the execution is simply faltering. Here are some of the reasons why this book didn’t really gel. First and foremost, it’s a narration from Pendergast’s POV and we never truly learn if the events he recalls are the truth or just his air-brushed memories. Secondly the events in the tale occur without explanation and the ending is just plain an ending without any real meaning to it. The story deals with a local legend and it showcases some seriously creepy turns but that’s all it does. The readers are simply left hanging to imagine what could have occurred and thus this story doesn’t really do much beside promise a lot and fail to deliver.

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OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Into The Mirror Black is Tim Marquitz’s Halloween freebie to his fans and readers alike. It is a tale which is dark, twisted and just simply weird. The short was released near Halloween and fits in perfectly within its creepy/horrific premise. The story is set in the modern day in an unnamed city and focuses upon Tyson who is carrying out a specific agenda of sorts.

Tyson believes that he is carrying out the orders of the Gods that no longer hold dominion on the mortal plains. However they have been communicating with certain people chief among them being Tyson himself. He is to carry out certain task that not only involve murder but also contain horrific elements to them. Tyson however has faithfully continued doing them at a very physiological and mental cost to himself. Knowing for certain that upon completion and with the return of the elder Gods, he would be rewarded without measure. What eventually happens is the root of the story and another dark, deeply disturbing tale from the mind of Tim Marquitz.

Firstly here’s why I liked the story, it does not flinch from its gruesome areas and portrays a deeply disturbed individual. Secondly the reader is never sure whether what is happening is truly what it seems or thought to be. Thirdly the prose and twists in the plot make it very hard to put down and also equally hard to figure out where this tale is headed. Tim Marquitz has to be lauded for delivering a story that can be construed on so many levels, the reader will never be sure of the paranormal nature of the events and this adds to the unpredictability of the story. The reader is also kept into the dark in regards to the sanity status of the protagonist and thus in this regards the author paints a very bleak picture for the protagonist.

Give this short a try if you are in the mood for some chilling horror with the benefit of some seriously vicious scenes. Tim Marquitz shows us a disturbing picture of a man sinking into depravity, whether the cause is supernatural or simply mental illness is for the reader to decide.


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