Whilst reading this collection from Aphotic Realm, I felt like Total Recall, Dark City, and Blade Runner were playing on loop in my mind, such were the vivid descriptions in the dark tales on offer here. Although not all the stories struck the ‘woah-cord’ with me, each did transport me to a desolate and depressing future where life certainly licks balls. And this, of course, was the point.
The first thing that impressed me with this was the layout. I was expecting a small paperback but when it arrived I was delighted to find a full A4 size magazine/book. The artwork is stunning with each short story getting its own unique look, as well as a feature on artist Sergii Golotovskiy who was responsible for the excellent cover (and alternate cover).
There’s also interviews, reviews, and comics. I’m not a big fan of comics I have to say, but the artwork for these was top drawer and definitely in keeping with dark theme.
There are interviews with Ronald Malfi, Kevin J. Anderson, and Katie Koja, and a couple of book reviews by Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews and Brian James Lewis.
But it was the short stories that brought me here, and they didn’t disappoint.
Things kick off with a non-fiction piece by Veronica Sicoe. This is a great intro that sets the mood for what is to come. There’s nothing new here but it certainly whets the appetite, like reading the synopsis for your favourite movie. “Yes, I’m ready to be Dystopia-d,” I said.
As I mentioned earlier not all the stories were for me, although each one had me invested in the tale so the world-building was all superbly done. But here are a few words on the ones I really enjoyed.
The Red Umbrella – Brian Black. A man working as an engineer, battling the primitives in a world destroyed by machines finds out he had more to do with the situation than he realised. A real ‘oh no!!’ moment at the end.
Interrogation – Anoop Anthony. I enjoyed the way this story was told. A quick intro detailing a terrorist attack then switches to the futuristic mind-reading techniques of two doctors as they delve into the memories of the arrested terrorist. They learn the motivation of the attack, which is not what they first imagined.
May It Pass – Bo Chappell. This was a ‘we need to know why everything went wrong’ tale, where a young girl is sent by her father to escape the atrocities of their planet. This is a dystopian tale, obviously, so things ain’t too rosey at the end.
Flake – John F. Leonard. A man writes in his diary of strange, snow-like fog flakes that are seemingly destroying the world. Like a Lovecraftian tale we witness the man’s fall to insanity through his diary entries. This is depressing stuff.
Hungry Little Things – S. J. Budd. A woman tells of her desire to get to school to collect her little boy, but the strange creatures in the air that seek to devour all life are in her way. Will she make it to the school or will she be consumed by these vicious, deadly mites?
Fix Me – Lachlan Watt. I loved the creepy and claustrophobic feel of this story. A woman is shut inside a dark room, not knowing who she is or what in the hell is going on. But she’s been put inside for a purpose and slowly she realises exactly what’s expected of her. It’s not good, I can tell you. This was my favourite story on offer.
8-Bit Rebellion – A. A. Medina. This was another great story of futuristic suffering. I loved the concept of this one; a world where everything is seen only in black and white, and the ability to see colours must be earned. One man strives, with the help of a strange underground brotherhood, to bring down the system.
The Day The Towers Rose – S. E. Casey. This was one depressing tale. The city has ceased to function, the streets are empty, and there is no longer any point to life. Strange beings have taken over. Are they aliens? It’s hard to say and the reason for their arrival is only hinted at, which only helped to create the tension in this great story.
Ruby – Jonathan Boon. In a world where gifted children are taken from their loving families, you can understand why two parents do all they can to prevent the evil corporation from stealing their little girl. But it seems as though The Man will go to any extreme to get what he wants.
So all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this journey into the destruction of the world as we know it. A really great collection of stories, art, and general dystopian awesomeness. Hails to Aphotic Realm and all the authors and contributors for making this issue. Ooh, there’s a Lovecraft-inspired one coming soon – Yes Please!!!
Categories: book review