Thursday, November 01, 2007

HALLOWEEN REVIEW: 'Hell 101' by Joseph Sweet

TITLE: Hell 101
AUTHOR: Joseph Sweet
PRICE: 19.50
GENRE: Horror
ISBN: 978-0-6151-5939-3
PUBLISHER: Forsaken Press

Meat-eating tentacled underground creatures—the feeding has begun. Apparently, the standard scythe bearing Grim-reaper has taken to riding trains. We have terminator-esque story of Fiona, crystalballing by will of mind into the future in order to stop her own death. Then we have a little genetic experimentation in an island of Dr. Moreau/mutated vampire-gargoyle themed story called The Scavengers, and this was by far my favourite; I particularly liked the contemplative and moody ending. And we have a ghost town, a decayed beacon amongst the sandy dunes of an alternate universe lost to time, space, and reality. Trapped by the sand storm, no one dares venture out of the town for fear of the creature. But should they really be afraid? This was another of my favourites. Not to mention what might be lurking in that locked dresser drawer.

And these are only but a few of the stories...

This is a collection of scare stories everyone can enjoy, minor grammatical issues aside. The author has a good grasp of the macabre, but in my opinion, these stories lack the intensity I normally prefer in my horror—they seem a bit censured to me and might seem that way to mainstream horror fans as well. However, not everyone likes their eyes gouged out or their hearts ripped from their chest like I do, and that might not have been the author's intent anyway. So if you are looking for a light version of Hell, well, then this is the book for you.

In any event, all of the stories have a classic underlying point to them, which is wonderful, as there is nothing worse than pointless cliché horror. Clichés abound in this book, but these are beautifully constructed stories, so I can forgive a cliché or two. I like terror stories, as a result, I only wish there had been imagery that was more imaginative. I felt that the stories were well constructed but lacked a certain depth of feeling mainstream horror fanatics crave and expect. As far as thought-provoking tales of the macabre, I think that definition classifies this book much better than Horror. These are not hack-n-slash gore stories, as they are all constructed with a much deeper existential meaning, which was not lost on this reader.

This collection shows a lot of promise, and I think once the author spends a little uncensored time in the shadows these stories could be something fantastic—a little more imagery would do it. And for those who are not as versed in the Horror genre as I am, this is a nice place to start without losing your mind or your flesh. This is a good book for adults young and old who might want a little suspense, without being terrified. I also hear that the author, adding a deeper feel to the work, illustrates the book. Visuals are always nice, although I didn’t get a chance to see them in the review copy. Providing the author fixes the grammatical issues before live-release, I think this book will do well with horror fans that like it a little easier on the psyche—more theme than throttling.

Rating: 7/10

See also:
Lulu 8/10

Average: 7.5/10

Reviewed by Cheryl Anne Gardner: Cheryl Anne Gardner, author of four novellas, is an Executive Assistant by day, an avid reader, and an independent reviewer with Podpeople.blogspot and Amazon where she blogs regularly on AmazonConnect. She is an advocate for independent film, music, and books, and when at all possible, prefers to read and review out of the mainstream Indie published works, foreign translations, and a bit of philosophy. She lives with her husband and two ferrets on the East Coast, USA.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

This wonderful review hits the nail on the head!

Ms. Roberson's unique ability to bring us face to face with our own fears and our shadow selves allows us to experience the horror, rather than simply passively read about it.

Excellent review of an amazing book. Fright House not only challenged my perceptions of fear, but the beautiful lyrical quality of Ms. Roberson's poetry is enthralling.
I have read Fright House several times now and find something new in it each time.
Bravo for your review on an excellent piece of writing, horror or otherwise!