DEAD SOULS - 2004
by David G. Barnett
Publisher: Shocklines Press
I didn’t realize until the end of the first story that this is a collection. I thought I was reading a short novel. Figuring I missed something, I carefully looked over the book, but there’s truly no indication that indicated otherwise. It doesn’t have a Table of Contents, anything on the back cover or inside the front of the book.
I’m glad I took the time to double-check, because what actually is on the back cover makes the book worth picking up. The "what folks are saying" list is hilarious (and, I assume, ingeniously fabricated by Barnett). Two of my favorites are "Well... at least it burned nicely," and "I think I've gone blind."
The first story, "Bully" is by far my favorite, and earned five Bookwyrms. It's about a nine year old boy who gets picked on at school. Getting beat up on a regular basis twists his little psyche and soon he loves Pain so much that he can’t live without it. Within a year, he takes it to the next level, trying to teach other kids the lovely lessons Pain brings. Trouble is, the little buggers don't seem to appreciate being in his classroom and they die surprisingly fast. The story is brilliantly told in the first person as a "coming of age" story and leaves no blood unshed.
I really enjoyed "Libra" which had a smart, ass-kicking female protagonist still trying to decide if she enjoys being the vet in a small, rural town. During her first Spring ("rush hour" for vets because that's when so many births occur, often at night), she gets home just as a male intruder polishes off a slice of her chocolate cake. He's there to "even out the scales" of "the strong and the weak" but she's stronger than she appears and winds up knocking him unconscious with a handy frying pan. From there, the story continues to spin in interesting directions as the vet faces unusual circumstances. I enjoyed the three dimensional characters and unpredictable plot. The story only gets four Bookwyrms because I expected more explanation for the situations than I received, which was frustrating and a little confusing.
Most of the other stories rated three Bookwyrms (including an unusual zombie story called "Kill Me Again"). They were interesting, but not as tightly woven or unsettling as the first tale.
copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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