Genre: Adult Horror Short Story Collection
Year Release: 2010 (2022 on audio)
Source: Library Audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
Prolific horror author Stephen Graham Jones also has a short story collection that are small doses of terror. From urban legends about murdered bulls, to kids making mistakes during the summer, to an island of shifters, to several families keeping secrets, these stories touch on a variety of horror.
With elegant language that keeps a sharp focus on the characters, these chilling tales drop the reader right into the middle, gently guiding them along a ramping up sense of dread and shattering reality for all parties involved.
What I enjoy the most is the how quickly these stories start. They mostly feel like someone is conveying a happening to someone, without much introduction or world-building. The story begins and you’re there with the characters.
In addition, with the stories featuring children never tend to stay with childhood. There’s a sense of reflection, but none of the nostalgia for “better days,” especially since many of those protagonists and narrators can’t relate. The one that stands out in this regard is “Raphael,” which also almost serves as a template for The Only Good Indians because of how the future reckons with the deadly consequences of the past.
There is a lot of focus on character interaction and reflection, especially as whatever past deeds comes back to haunt the narrator. Here are the stories that stick with me:
- “Till the Morning Comes”
- Father goes from glib to violent to absent as a son disappears one night
- Absolutely unsettling with uncertainty around what’s real and what isn’t
- CW: alcoholism, bed wetting, child abuse/neglect
- “The Sons of Billy Clay”
- What do prison and rodeos have in common? More than one might think
- About an urban legend about a murderous bull that may or may not be possessed by a murderer
- CW: rodeo accidents, prison industrial complex, arson, murder
- “Wolf Island”
- A community of shifters start playing with dolphins, what can go wrong
- A lot, apparently, especially when an orca arrives
- Four “invisible” kids with no sense of self-preservation help one of their own prove she’s not a witch
- Fast forwards to adulthood, and the twist of what really happened that day is heartbreaking
- CW: implied child sexual abuse, PTSD
- Parenting is hard, especially if you think your kid has ESP
- Especially if you have a side hustle and a side life
- Especially when baby monitors aren’t truly that reliable
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