Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book Review: Gleefully Macabre Tales by Jeff Strand

Gleefully Macabre Tales
By Jeff Strand
Dark Regions Press
278 pages

I have very mixed feelings about this review. Let me state at the beginning, I think this is a worthwhile short story collection that SHOULD be on the shelves of any library that is serious about having a horror inventory. Do you sense a a big BUT coming? I was not a huge fan of the book myself. That being said I understand clearly that Strand has put together a collection of stories will have appeal to a wide audience weather I like it or not.

Gleefully Macabre Tales features over 30 pieces of Jeff Strand's unique combination of Horror and comedy. This is not unheard of in the horror genre, most authors lighten up their collections with one or two entirely comedic tales. How about a book that is 95% comedic horror?

I should say that I have enjoyed Strand's work before. I liked his Bram Stoker award nominated novel Pressure and I really enjoyed The Haunted Forest Tour (a novel he co-wrote). I thought the idea of me liking this collection was kind of a stretch to begin with, in way that is why I choose it from list of books for review from monster librarian. I generally like very, very dark books. I wanted to see if Strand's style of Horror comedy could crack my black soul.

I can't say this book worked for me, I had two favorite stories that I thought were effective at being great horror fiction and making me laugh. Those stories were “Everything has a Purpose” and the brutal cringe inducing story of testicular horror “Mister Sensitive.” It was while reading the later than I had the biggest belly laugh and also cringed at the pain of the main character.

I enjoyed how short many of the stories were, Strand did a great job of doing many things in a short word count that takes serious skill. If you held me down and forced me to explain what I didn't like I would say two things bothered me. First, Strand often chooses mean spirited narrators for his stories, and after reading a dozen or so of these you begin to feel like your on a greyhound bus trip. After awhile it becomes unpleasant. No matter how dark a book is it is nice to get at least some light from characters you can root for.

Second, I don't find Strand's subject matter to be very creative. I enjoy reading stories when I am impressed by idea behind it being left field and interesting. Many of the ideas seem pedestrian, I don't sit back in my chair and marvel “How did he think of that?” I like to read a book and be astonished that his/her mind created this story and this universe. I really didn't get that from this book.

I think this book should be around for others to decide. Sure it was funny but I almost felt like I could see Strand typing and winking at us “I'm here all week folks.” I think it has a place in any library collection that is interested in having a compete horror collection, Strand is a effective writer and despite my personal criticism for the book I can still see it's appeal.

Written for Monster librarian.

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