This short story collection is full of werewolves, zombies, Greek idols, giant bugs, and the first kid born on the moon. With plenty of twisted humor. Oh yes. If the average puns and jokes that populate SFF literature merely get a weak grin out of you, then perhaps you need some deeper, darker humor? It can be found here. This collection contains 11 or 12 short stories plus the first 5 chapters of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain and the first few chapters of Prime Suspects. So it’s a great way to see if this author is for you. And it is thoroughly entertaining.
While I won’t go through each and every short story, I will share my thoughts on my favorites.
Raw and Reel – David is a TV producer, and he is filming a questionable show in Mexico. It’s a werewolf hunt. Yeah, werewolves turn up here and there and as long as they cage themselves during the full moon and don’t make a ruckus, no one much cares. But once one goes wild and crazy, then they have to be put down. Well, this particular werewolf may or may not have done the deed, but it looks like he will have to pay the price. And what of David and his sleazy soul? Well, there’s a surprise waiting for him. I liked the twisted nature of this tale from start to finish.
My Son, The Monster – Daedalus and his son Icarus have been imprisoned by Minos. Daedalus is quite the inventor and manages to fashion a way to escape. As the narrative moves forward through the escape scenes, we also get small flashes of Icarus’s past, and it is not pretty. I liked this story for it’s new spin on an old, old tale. The ending was bitter and just.
Charlie Horse – Oh my! Now this was such an excellent story. I am hard pressed to say which is my favorite of the lot, but this might be it. I am not much of zombie person, but this was awesome. Ted and his band, including the new kid Chuck, round up zombies. Yep. They have a few runners to entice the zombies out and get them to congregate in one location, and a nice big tank or caravan or such for holding them while they are transported to market. Most are sold to the zombie-powered turbines, generating green energy. A good zombie can walk in a circle for a few years before giving out, all the time pushing on a spinner connected to a turbine. Nice. I actually laughed out loud at the idea, thoroughly liking the take on zombies as something useful. Of course the stronger and faster ones can end up doing other things, like at the race tracks…….I’ll just let your twisted little minds chew on that.
Reality Bites – Life insurance and vampires. You’ve been declared legally dead, zero heartbeat for the past week, but you can’t claim your life insurance benefits because you’re still ambulatory. Nor can you claim any government paycheck or social security. Sucks. Literally, for you are a vampire. well, Mr. Merril is anyway. As he tries first logic, then pleading, and finally the vampire thrall seduction stare on Fundamental Insurance worker Cheryl, his sad little tale unfolds. But Cheryl is an old hand at the insurance company, and has a few surprises of her own. Yep, it’s a messed up situation captured here for my amusement.
Adventurers Beware – This is one of the stories that vies for my favorite of the litter. You’ve got your adventurers, Lord Byron, Lady Anise, Ragnor, and Nimblefingers. They adventure, whether the locals need some adventurers to swoop in and save them or not. Duncan runs the inn and he and the senior business women and men gather about. How to get rid of Lord Byron and his crew? Mulling it over a nice local beer, they come up with a plan. Adventurers love maps. Listening to this story made me think of my man’s D&D games, and of course the numerous hours I’ve logged playing one dungeon crawl PC game or another. very funny.
The View From My Room - Adam was the first person born on the moon. His parents emigrated there perhaps 20 years ago and now Adam is a teen. He is prepping for his first trip the Earth to see his grandparents in person. Wearing a weighted full-body suit daily for several hours to build his muscles and bone density, he contemplates what it will be like to leave the moon. A crowd on the sparsely populated moon is perhaps 20 people. On Earth, the crowds will be unlike anything he has ever experienced. This was probably the only story in the lot that didn’t ride on twisted or dark humor. It was simply cute watching this teenager prep for his first big trip.
Lieutenant Armchair – So here is the 3rd of my favorites. It’s nitty gritty and dark. Some biological agent escaped the labs a few years back and now Kansas is no more. Large, aggressive bugs (just one result of the agent) cause grief and consternation as they spread and make places uninhabitable to humans. Along the TX-OK border, Chris Gibson and his band of merry bug whackers have been sent out to take out a bee hive. But it’s dirty, dangerous business and their armchair lieutenant, who is safely tucked away back at headquarters, is barking orders that make no sense and may get one of them killed. Later, back at base, Gibson gets to unwind with a beer and gives his shoulder to teary Kelly, who had a bad day. There’s a lovely twist to this story, but I don’t want to ruin it.
This book also includes the first 5 chapters of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, and it works quite well as a short story, or short novella. Mechani-Cal (Cal, for short) is a guy who has been screwed over one too many times. And now is looks like the world will be screwed over by mind-controlling bugs. Luckily, he has been able to lock himself up in his battlesuit and avoid being taken over. Unfortunately, it looks like the superheroes known as the the Olympians have been brainwashed. Battling a few of them, he manages to stun Aphrodite (aka Stacey), whose bug falls off. taking her back to his secret lair, she threatens all sorts of death and anatomical contortions upon him if he doesn’t release her. She needs her bug; it’s an addiction. And it goes from there. And it is pretty cool. Cal has issues, Stacey has issues. But somehow, someway (twisted and full of U-turns) they find a way to work together. I definitely need to read the full-length version.
The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer was once again an excellent narrator. I loved variety of voices he pulled off, from young Adam to battle-scarred Gibson. He even had a variety of female voices for this collection that were believable and not strained. Perfect pick for this book.
For more, check out Dab of Darkness: http://dabofdarkness.com/2013/12/26/horror-humor-and-heroes-by-jim-bernheimer/