For starters, I don’t really read many horror short stories. I find that most of them follow the same general formula: build up for a little bit, then drop the quasi-twist hammer. It’s something that finds its roots in Tales From the Crypt, The Twilight Zone, and O. Henry. It doesn’t necessarily mean all horror fiction is bad, but it’s usually not my cup of tea.
Still, I dug into John Caliburn’s No Reflection, because I’m a sucker for short story collections. As Fremont stated, it’s a decent first book. It’s not without its problems, but there are some pretty good moments in here.
I liked “Delusional”, partially for a nod to Cthulhu, but mainly because it made me think of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II. I was waiting for the problem to be solved by curing a case of Carpathian Kitten Loss, but, alas, that was not how this story ended. Still, it was a decent premise and a solid ending, even if Vigo never reared his ugly mug.
I also liked “Rustling Sheets”. The idea of a carnivorous monster with razor-sharp claws taking up residence in the lower bunk is not something I would be okay with. Unless he feels like sharing a little chipmunk meat in the middle of the night. I could probably get down with that. A man gets awfully hungry at night.
This was a pretty quick read, which helped. But, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not without its problems.
Pretty much every story seemed to remind me of a similar story/movie. Not that there’s really anything wrong with that (Koheleth famously stated “there is nothing new under the sun,” over 2000 years ago), but I didn’t feel like anything here separated itself from its influences.
It’s a bit strange to say about a book that barely cracked 100 pages, but these stories all could’ve been tightened up a little. There’s nothing wrong with a two-page story if the story-telling is strong. Some of these felt dragged out, which hurt the story as a whole (“Fear of the Shadows” definitely felt this way to me).
The writing could also be a bit stronger. There were a lot of “or somethings” in here. Too many of those tend to detract from the story.
All of that sounds like I hated this. I did not hate this. I didn’t love it, but it was enjoyable enough to keep me entertained.
This is a solid debut. I’m curious to see what Caliburn does next.
No Reflection is currently available on Amazon.