Monday, February 25, 2013

[Book Review] Staring Into the Abyss

Title: Staring Into the Abyss
Author: Richard Thomas
Date Published: March 1, 2013
Genre: Horror, Adult Fiction 
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 4/5


About the Book:
As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.” In this collection of short stories Richard Thomas shows us in dark, layered prose the human condition in all of its beauty and dysfunction. A man sits in a high tower making tiny, mechanical birds, longing for the day when he might see the sky again. A couple spends an evening in an underground sex club where jealousy and possession are the means of barter. A woman is victimized as a child, and turns that rage and vengeance into a lifelong mission, only to self-destruct, and become exactly what she battled against. A couple hears the echo of the many reasons they’ve stayed together, and the one reason the finally have to part. And a boy deals with a beast that visits him on a nightly basis, not so much a shadow, as a fixture in his home. These 20 stories will take you into the darkness, and sometimes bring you back. But now and then there is no getting out, the lights have faded, the pitch black wrapping around you like a festering blanket of lies. What will you do now? It’s eat or be eaten—so bring a strong stomach and a hearty appetite.

Staring Into the Abyss is a very well-written mix of nitty-gritty short stories, each conveying a different message and emotion. Some of them lift up the spirit, others narrate about the dark visages in the human psyche, all of them haunting and insightful.

I’ve always loved reading short stories, especially those bound in a single book or collection because they are quick to read and straight to the point. So it was such a huge treat for me to be given the chance to read review Richard Thomas’ collection of short stories. I was given twenty delightful stories to read in a single e-book!

First of all, the stories in this book are all very well-written. They were obviously well-thought-of and planned. The words are vivid, and most of the characters are very well-defined. 

Also, some of the stories were written in unconventional styles, which I find really creative and unique. The unconventional writing style offered an alternative reading experience, and for me, it was such a pleasant deviation from what’s normal.

As for the short stories themselves, I couldn’t possible review all twenty of them so I decided to pick the ones I really love.

In Maker of Flight, I sensed the hope of an old man to gain his freedom again, and to enjoy even the simplest of things in life, such as being able to freely look at the blue sky. The short story brought a refreshing feeling even though the setting conveyed a picture of imprisonment and hopelessness.

In Steel-toed Boots, I was just heart-broken. It was like I was suddenly bitch-slapped in the middle of listening to a long and compelling sermon. I had to take a pause from reading just to frown and sulk. (Internally, I was protesting. Why?! Why would you even write something like that?!)

In Freedom, I seriously loved the ending. Seriously. It made me smile. And if my brother would ever come to the same desperate existence as the guy in the story, I would probably do the very same thing. This was a complete turnaround from the story before it. (Thank you, dear Author, for not letting me completely sink into despair by putting this story after Steel-toed Boots. There is hope in the world, after all.)

I also liked Underground Wonder Bound because of the implications in between the lines. It’s definitely quirky and fun in its own way. And this story gave a whole new meaning to 9:30.

Then there are also those stories which portray the less-amusing conditions or life, such as in Paying Up. It’s sad to see a father lamenting how his daughter turned out and blaming himself for it. Personally, I believe that how we turn out to be is not entirely controlled by our parents’ behavior. They may be contributory, but in the end, it’s our life.

And of course, my most favorite one, Stephen King Ate My Brain. This one is definitely a Stephen King-esque explanation on how famous author Stephen King could churn out one best-selling book after another under the horror genre. This definitely hit my tickle spot even though it’s supposed to be dark. (I wonder what author Stephen King said when he read about fictional Stephen King in this story. Hmm.)

All in all, I highly recommend this book for people who love short stories, be it horror, humor or just a really compelling story. This book is definitely a unique mix of short stories guaranteed to tickle your brain and make you crave for more.

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