The Twilight Zone is one of my favorite shows ever. I’ve watched season after season, over and over, year after year. It never gets old for me. I’m attracted to short, weird tales that manage to enthrall and shock me in 30 minutes or less. Likewise, I also enjoy short story collections for the same reason. Bite-sized stories of suspense and the unexplained will always have a place on my bookshelf.
Marvelry’s Curiosity Shop, by John Brhel and Joseph Sullivan, is one such collection of stories. 12 fantastical tales of terror and mystery await in a retired stage magician’s shop. Dr. Marvelry (pronounced, “Marvel-rye”) has traveled the world and collected scores of curious objects. From the book summary:
“A phonograph that seemingly replays a tragedy. Fertility dolls that are more than decoration. A bedeviled mannequin. These are just some of the relics this eccentric shopkeeper has collected over the years.”
He seems like a nice enough man, but Dr. Marvelry seems to have no problem selling these cursed items to unsuspecting customers, without really giving them proper warning about the objects’ power. Seems kind of messed up, right? I had some trouble trying to figure out Marvelry as a character, whether his intent was malicious or not. In any case, he himself was featured in a couple of the stories, and was largely sympathetic.
As for the stories, they were a load of fun. My favorite tale in particular was “Seams of Consequence”, about a vintage sewing machine that served its purpose a little too well. It could have easily been an episode of The Twilight Zone, right down to the eerie, but fitting, ending. “A Gift Ungiven”, about a professor that purchases an ancient Native Amercian artifact, would have been a favorite had the ending been given more thought. Unfortunately, many of the stories ended sooner than I had hoped, usually with a character giving exposition in the final paragraph to explain the climax. Stories as strong as these deserve to be explored to their full potential, even if it means upping the word count a bit. I’m hoping that, in their next collection, the authors max out the narratives a bit more to let readers feel the full impact of the spectacular climaxes. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by Brhel and Sullivan.
The stories are told in a narration that takes some getting used to, but still consistent. Think of someone telling you tales by a campfire; there’s going to be much more “tell” than “show”. Once I got past that, I found the stories to be quite enjoyable. The authors took the time to weave the cursed objects, characters, and places within one another’s stories, which really brought the collection together, rather than just slapping together creepypasta-style tales together with a common theme.
I would recommend this book to fans of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, who want some light reading that’s creepy, but won’t give them nightmares. With the exception of one story with sexual themes (“A Made Match”), I think a YA audience would have a good time with the book, as well. Find it on Amazon.