on 3 December 2013
The latest collection from the prolific pen of Gary McMahon takes twelve stories from his sold out, very limited, collection It Knows Where You Live and adds to these an additional seven stories. McMahon is a great proponent of the short story and the selection on offer here maintains his reputation for strong, emotionally impactful fiction. My only criticism is with the layout of the collection which rather than combining all the stories into a cohesive whole they are separated into two sections, one of stories from the original collection and a second, titled 'Other Monsters', with the new material. I would have liked to have seen more consideration given to the story order to heighten the reader's experience.
The stories offered up here are never less than engrossing and a significant number extremely strong with a couple, 'You Haven't Seen Me' and 'Alice, Hanging Out in the Skate Park', that are still permeating my mind several days after I finished with the collection. Both of those stories are from the new material and as such were newer to me having read the original collection previously.
It's nice to see a great number of the original collection becoming more widely available, although one of my favourites from that version 'Hope is a Small Thing Dying in a Bin Behind an Abandoned Kebab Shop' hasn't made the cut, and this would be a perfect collection to give as a gift to introduce a new reader to the exceptional short fiction of Gary McMahon which reflects and exaggerates the grim reality of Britain's crumbling urban societies. Short horror fiction doesn't get more essential than this.
on 9 December 2013
Gary McMahon does a really nice forward and even manages to throw in a random story!
GM has a beautiful way of writing, so descriptive, some embedded humour that you merely smirk at before he whaps you around the face with a dead fish or two.
My favourite line in the whole book is; baked beans were like angels‟ eggs bursting against his teeth.
Just Another Horror Story: two illicit lovers begin to tell ghost stories post coitus and it's a gruesome one indeed, then she finds the Horror Stories book, from there it all goes a bit pear shaped. A strange ending but a gripping story.
Barcode: Patrick and Sophie get that dreaded phone call from the bank....they are about to lose their house, just as he sees a ghost? walk past the window. His money worries stem from his failing business and made worse by the need to lay off staff and his latest job gives him more to worry about. Things go from bad to worse as he ends up with a defining dream..... Not sure about this story I was really enjoying it, not something I would do with a ghost story normally but GM kept the pace fast and unrelenting, then it sort of drops of a cliff. I reread the last paragraph in case I missed something, but nope, maybe I just don't get it.
The Row: the narrator is on Sebastian Street to survey the row of derelict houses that have a history; mutilated bodies, missing children, drug addicts, ghosts and spooks. Soon he begins to get strange feelings, dreams and eventually nightmares about The Row at Sebastian Street. Ghostly houses; different, just not my thing, the ending was definitely spooky though.
When One Door Closes: poor Nick, no job, no chances and Annie has started to read The Guardian! Then doors start to shut on him, whilst quite amusing to start with you wonder if he will be stuck in a lift for the rest of his life; or his he just losing his marbles? GM has a really great way of writing a riveting story but I am finding the endings lacking, almost like he can't be bothered to finish them. OR I'm just too stupid to get this style of writing/horror story.
The Chair: poor young Ben longing for his Father and having only a drunken Mother to love him, and dish out the pills. Then came The Chair. Despite having the best line of the book in it, this story felt unfinished for me, I wanted more.
Truth Hurts: Cal has cracks in his body and Barbara dreams of orange trees...... just weird! But so wonderful.
Down: an observation between teacher and pupils as they slowly go missing in a dark cave. What is dripping? Where are the cave dwelling critters? Either my coffee just kicked in or these stories are getting weirder! And it's all brilliant.
Sounds Weird: a really sad look at life in this one, whilst the main character tries to work out what is on the mp3 player the whole world seems to go upside-down. Yup the coffee has definitely kicked in. This book is well laid out with its stories as you feel yourself softly, softly slide down the rabbit hole, and then given a shove by GM.
The Table: Ben arrives home to find a table. As the pieces slowly filter in it becomes clear that this is the Ben with the pills and The Chair - now the story can be finished. What a sad, sad ending.
The Sheep: Bill, Hannah, the wellie boot and the dirty, itchy sheep. GM guides you round a bed in the rabbit warren he has created and this little story drives you to distraction with its accurate relationship observations and then final offering.
Small Things: Sheila is driving in a no man's land, her daughter is plugged in to the latest game, the radio is playing static, who is following them? Who cares? It's all down to the Small Things. Oh, a spooky tale - very staccato in its telling making you rush to the end and then wishing you hadn't.
It Knows Where You Live: another disintegrating relationship type of story with some great observations about a couple who barely know each other anymore, but that doesn't stop the husband fantasizing about killing her! I'm not sure if GM meant this to be funny but it made me smirk a lot.
Trog Boy Ran: Niles is missing Abby, so he stalks her. Is it the creepy little beard he has? The lack of food? Or is something stalking him! Very strange but entrancing story. As with all GM little stories, I'm not sure I enjoy them, but I am riveted.
I live in the Gut: aaaaaw a tale of love found and a new beginning all wrapped up in gore, tentacles and bone crunching. This was my favourite story.
It Won't Be Long Now: our story teller is waiting for his audience and chatting with....well, someone. You get the gist of what is occurring as you read, in small spine chilling shudders.
You Haven't Seen Me: poor Trendle, he is a social outcast, being more damaged by the daily grind and his own terror. When it all comes to a head I do believe he is grateful. Such an emotive tale.
The Groto: a snippet of the non-movie family at the usual boring xmas, slowly things deepen into a pit of despair and The Groto inhabitant is calling. What crawls out is not what you expect. Such an acute look at society today.
Hungry Love: a tale of all consuming love, literally. What is Terry hiding and what does Stan find so wonderfully fluffy! There is a definite erotic edge to this story and some more of that smirk value.
Alice, Hanging Out at the Skate Park: this is split into a few parts so you are taken on a journey by GM. The ending is strange but warranted in an odd way.
At the end of the book GM talks his way through each story, I would have preferred him to do this at the end or beginning of each one to get the full feeling.
This is not something I would normally read and GM is a new author to me, a little strange and wacky for my tastes but the man certainly has a talent.