Thursday, December 28, 2017

Book Review: Engines of Ruin by Lucas Mangum

Engines of Ruin by Lucas Mangum

Paperback 282 pages

Published November 1st 2017 by Doom Kitten Press

Lucas Mangum is a writer who has been on my radar for a long time. I only know him from social media, his opinions on fiction, horror, food are all ones I tend to agree with. I was excited to first sample his work with this collection featuring eight tales and an introduction from extreme horror author Shane McKenzie.

The length of the stories range from very short to several novella length pieces. It comes with detailed story notes at the end. I do this in my collections and I love when authors do it. I think those of us introduced to short horror fiction by Stephen King learned so much from reading these. The notes provide insight into the creative process. It is clear Mangum is a thoughtful writer very dedicated to the art of storytelling.

That is important when you read a collection. A few of the stories were an experiment like "A Killing Back Home" which was a very effective murder mystery, played more straight forward than LM normally writes. The story hinged on characters and it is clear from the first story that Mangum is very interested in the details that make characters.

"Hell and Back" the first story is very effective with character beats and the whole story centers around a Preacher turned bartender who goes a little to far to help a friend. "Occupy Babylon" was cool story that explored the occupy movement that was hot when the story was written. The story lost me a little men it went to classic horror monster. None the less the story was strong enough to justify the use of said monster. That made sense because said monster is not really the point."Our Lady of the Sea" was the best example of setting in the story. It was one of my favorites in the book.

Lucas is a author who writes with confidence, one of my favorite things about this collection is how sure of his abilities he is. Even when experimenting, you feel like you are in the hands of a gifted storyteller. This is uncommon for a self-published author. I don't say that as a insult but a strength. I know this from following Mangum on facebook/twitter he has only one weakness. His impatience to get his stories out there. He has the ability to go with a traditional publisher but seems unwilling to wait for that process. This collection is filled with wild and entertaining stories but is wrapped in a super vanilla cover that says nothing about the style or tone of the book. We all know not to judge a book by the cover, but it is also hard when you are competing with every form of entertainment in the world to separate yourself if you don't take that seriously.

I am however completely and totally sold on Lucas Mangumn the storyteller. I will be reading his longer work. There is plenty of grizzly and weird moments but it is the sure hand of master story-teller growing into his strength. This is the kinda book that if you get it now you can say you read that author before the world caught on.

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