I like horror, I like gore, I like monsters, I like tragedy. Taking all these into account I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this collection, I’d certainly heard great things about it.
I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This collection of 11 stories incorporated all that I love in the genre of horror. Bite-sized, nasty bastards of fiction that bleed from the pages with pungent chunks of slimy innards. Mmmmmmm.
The title, Cruel Works of Nature, summed the themes of these stories up well. Not that any of the tales were connected, but they all kind of were, if you know what I mean.
Things started off superbly with Foliage. The mystery of a married couple disappearing years ago is finally solved when strange vegetation is found growing around their old estate. The gore-fuelled descriptions of body horror had me nodding and smiling like a psycho as I read this one.
Jack in the Box was up next and was the tale of a, well you can guess, but one made from a human skull. No, worse than that, a child’s skull. Pretty brutal, eh? This was one creepy story but the only issue I had was with the main character, Barry. He was a bit of dick, to be honest, and I was hoping for an untimely end to him. I won’t say whether I was satisfied, though.
An evil beach with black sand was the star of Black Sand. While the concept was great, again the main character annoyed me a little. But I’m being picky here, the sand is what this story was really about and it did its job on the scares front perfectly.
For me, things declined slightly with the next two stories, Back Alley Sue and Girl on Fire. These just didn’t slap me in the wow-spot like the previous stories. I wondered whether this collection had peaked early.
But not to worry, because straight after was Scuttlebug, a story of giant man-eating spiders. It’s not a new concept, but it brought a fresh take on a fear-inducing favourite. These weren’t just your run-of-the-mill giant spiders, though, they were intelligent. Well, for arachnids anyway.
The Path Through Lower Fall follows a couple on a picturesque and peaceful walk through lush fields of loveliness. That is, before everything turns sour, and quickly. My earlier doubts were being nullified by this point.
And then came my absolute favourite, His Life’s Work. Mad scientists are creepy anyway, but when a doctor calls round to visit an eccentric patient with a fully furnished and modern science laboratory in the back of his house, things get weird. It seems the doctor has been chosen very carefully by his patient. Part The Wicker Man, part Lovecraftian horror; I bloody loved this one.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the set-up to Special Delivery, but when the action starts it’s a high-octane gore-fest. A strange creature emerges from a mysterious egg that arrives in the post. And its hungry. It also wastes no time in satisfying this hunger.
It Sees You When You’re Sleeping introduced another other-worldly killing machine beast-monster thing, hell-bent on devouring us poor humans. This one gripped me, too. The tension was cranked up throughout, ending in a terrifying meeting with this blood-thirsty creature.
And so to the closing act, Sketchbook. A mother lying on her deathbed looks back on a significant and terrifying ordeal from her past, along with her now grown-up son. Since buying him this weird-looking sketchbook back when he was five, everything fell apart. I knew where this one was going, but this certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment.
So although not every story here worked for me, the ones that did definitely outweighed the others. If you fancy a gore-hit of short stories, you should be giving this one a try.
And one other thing to mention, each story is accompanied by a picture. Now I’m not someone who can’t enjoy a story without pictures, but the inclusion of these was a very nice touch. I assume these were drawn by the author (they were all signed G.A.), and they prove that it’s not just words she’s talented with. These illustrations were superb and helped to give a sense of what the next instalment of horror would involve.
Horror fans, check this out!
Categories: book review