I have been busy the past few weeks catching up on some book reviews for http://www.ingridhall.com and one of my recent favourite’s was Dark Messages by Daniel J Weber. Daniel is a Canadian writer whose oeuvre is horror fiction, in particular fantastical horror. He is taking part in a year-long campaign to promote talented indie writers: Indie and Proud.
Dark Messages a short story anthology by Daniel J Weber
The first thing I should say is that this is a very short collection, coming in at only 42 pages, but good things come in small packages, as they say! Weber takes the reader on a dark roller-coaster of a ride, intense, surreal, visceral even visionary at times. Yes, he uses some blood and guts horror, but a lot of the horror stems from the mind and how people perceive themselves, how they react to each other and their environment.
The first story, Undying Memories, depicts a grieving mother trapped in side her own grief and memories. She appears as lost as her dead son, lying trapped beneath the waters of a lake. The forest setting and the allegorical and deadly wolf that stalks her, and the timeless quality of this story, create the atmosphere of a claustrophobic fairy tale where there will be no happy endings.
A Mile in My Shoes was another intriguing, almost surreal, tale of a man who inherits a collection of shoes and finds he can ‘feel’ the lives of those who wore them. From the emptiness of his grandfather and his dead-mans’ shoes, to the shoes of a delinquent dispossessed boy; until he finds the shoes that really fit, and brings the story full circle.
My favourite story was Master of Death. This was a surreal story where the narrator/observer watches a tattered man struggling through the desert in a final battle of wills with death. The story is as wild and intense as the desert wind that whips through it, with Breughel-esque imagery repleat with lakes of blood. My other favourite tale was They Know Not What they do, an odd choice for me as it has a very Christian theme. Weber creates an emotional re-imagining of the crucifixion complete with warring demons scenting victory as the failed Saviour doubts himself on the cross. Doubt, fear, redemption – it’s all there!
Asides from the exploration of self-esteem, one of the predominant themes in this collection was the power of death: always stalking you, seldom bested – a suitably dark message and one which was handled in a beautifully dark and Gothic, yet thoughtful manner.
Occasionally the stories were a little over-blown, and occasionally a bit opaque in their message, but overall I think this represents a very strong, thoughtful and gripping collection of tales, told in a very vivid and at times quite moving style. My biggest gripe was that there were only 6 stories in the collection – I could easily have read more.
All in all a great short read!