book review, horror, short story, women in horror

Collision by J. S. Breukelaar

A collection of 12 short stories that definitely bring the weird, even if the horror is of the more mundane variety.

The first story is Union Falls, in which an armless piano player revitalizes a flagging bar and it’s equally tired owner.

Raining Street deals with losing your way in life amid hardship, often literally, as a single mother’s trip to the market turns out differently than expected.

The Box shows a man who is determined to keep his girlfriend.

Ava Rune is dubbed Australian gothic by the author, and has elements of a revenge fantasy.

Lion Man starts with an absolute blast, but fails to deliver as promised in a story of a mentally ill man returning home.

Fairy Tale is a gender swapped love story to Ray Bradbury’s take, Heavy Set.

Fixed concerns things hidden and buried, although perhaps not forgotten.

Rogues Bay 3013 is a future set transhuman version of Frankenstein.

War Wounds concerns a Californian legend from the 1940’s.

The title story, Collision, details a quantum collision of worlds from separate dimensions, which results in the characters no longer belonging.

Glow sees literal aliens being hunted by ICE.

Like Ripples on a Blank Shore is a novella concerning paths not taken, and the baggage we all carry around to haunt us.

Breukelaar writes well, with a strong voice, and gathers together a diverse group of characters, countries and settings for her stories. There is an element of the weird in all her stories, some more pronounced than others, with more subtle hints of fantasy, horror or science fiction in several of the tales.

This book was not for me. I came very close to DNF, which is extremely rare for me. I can count on half a hand the books that fill that category. I don’t think it’s fair to form an opinion of a book until I’ve finished reading it and tried to work out what the author is saying.

I’ve wracked my brain the last three days to discover what it is exactly about these stories that makes me dislike them, and I have concluded that it comes down to a basic difference in how I see the world to the author. There is a nightmarish chaotic quality to these stories, where humanity is all filth and fluids, and the characters are caught in their lives with no choice and fruitless to act. I suppose some may call this horror, but I call it life. This is not a story to me, but an assumed baseline from which a story emerges. I love that a story has an armless piano playing character, but am disappointed that she turns into nothing more than a manic pixie dream girl.

Fairy Tale was inspired by Heavy Set – a ‘horror’ story where a mother feels trapped by her mentally disabled adult son. I like the set up of implied dread living with someone who may kill you, or you might kill them, but to reduce the depth of human complexity to a creeping fear from a single event seems awfully flat to me.

Collision and Glow, both interesting ideas, both born out of fear and upset over Trump’s presidential win, are so obvious in their message, so lacking in nuance or subtlety, so devoid of any greater human truth or meaning, that they read like propaganda than literature.

I would have given this book 1 dog, only Breukelaar is a talented writer, and I can see others would enjoy this collection.

I award Collision

Collision is available for $9.76 ebook and $12.81 print book on Amazon.

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