book review, horror, humor, short story

31 Days of Horror: Twisted Grin by Evan Starkman

Funny, gross and imaginative, this is a strong collection of short stories from Evan Starkman.

Un-supernatural starts the collection with a light tone. It is the story of Ben, whose kindness and non violent ways is threatening his vampirism.

I had to turn off my over analytical mind to fully enjoy this story. The whys and implications don’t really matter when it’s a fun story playing with the idea of you are what you eat and trying to get healthy. I enjoyed it.

She Is Home uses one of my favorite horror sub genres – body horror – to great effect to show the hurt a broken home causes the children. This was a winner for me in every way.

Imps sees two bored teenage boys looking for trouble, and finding it. Written well, this story takes a familiar setup and manages to make it tense and scary. The use of mirrors in this story both terrified me and ignited my imagination.

Zombie-Q returns to humor, with an original and amusing take on zombies. I’d love to see this story turned into an episode of a tv show like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits (the original shows, not the reboots).

The Butcherer (Season 70) is about a case of mistaken identity, where a man with the same name as a serial killer gets wrongly sent to Hell. I believe this story was meant to be humorous, but it was the low point of the collection for me. Stories about an incompetent afterlife that is essentially the same as this life is not a sub-genre that appeals to me.

Neverlone tackles inequality and class divide, with an interesting premise that would make Aldous Huxley proud, but execution that’s light on story and a little too on the nose.

20/20,000 has, at its core, a fascinating idea about blinking. How that idea is conveyed is all right, but I was left wanting more.

Her Small Corner of the World, like most of the stories in this volume, has an original and intriguing plot element. They say magic comes with a price, and Gillian finds that to be true when she discovers something unusual about her boss’s office.

The Bassist introduces the reader to a successful band, with lots of secrets.

For me, the first four stories of this collection were the strongest. While there were some nice touches in the remaining tales, they needed more work to make the original idea at the heart of the story shine.

However, taste is so individual, and I’ve seen other reviewers praise the only story I actually disliked as their standout favorite.

At only a dollar in price, it’s hard to go wrong with this collection, and I will be looking out for other works by this author.

I award Twisted Grin

Twisted Grin is available for $1 ebook on Amazon.

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