Gray Friar Press as a limited edition hardback with every book signed by, and containing a personal message from the author.
Given that all 100 copies of the book have sold, it's a bit redundant of me to make any recommendations (even more so than usual...) about the book but irrespective of that I wll say that this is an excellent collection from the consistently brilliant Mr McMahon.
The collection opens with Just Another Horror Story which is anything but, in reality a cleverly structured story touching on themes of paranoia and which creates a strong sense of claustrophobia with the protagonist trapped in a (seemingly) constant cycle of horror.
Hope is a Small Thing Dying in a Bin Behind an Abandoned Kebab Shop is one of the longest titles I've seen for a short story but also one of the best. (It may even be the quintessential Gary McMahon title?) It's another cleverly constructed tale told from the viewpoint of the most unreliable of narrators. In the first paragraph he tells us how it's the "normal things...[that] take on an unholy resonance" a sentiment reiterated with devastating effect at the end of the story.
Barcode is a topical story dealing as it does with the effects of the Global Recession (Part Two in a theatre near you soon!) and is disconcerting in the way that it actually ends on an optimistic note - not at all what I was expecting from the King of Bleak..!
Among the Leftovers is, I think, my favourite story in the collection. It's a strong concept for a story but one that works brilliantly. It's a short piece but still manages to be both scary and profound, having much to say about the human condition.
When One Door Closes is another story inspired (if that's the right word in this context) by the recession. It's almost a fable and underlines very effectively how it's the ordinary Joe - at the bottom of the financial food chain - who is the one to suffer the most from massive, world-wide failures. Unlike Barcode this has a much bleaker (and therefore, unfortunately probably more realistic) conclusion.
The Chair first appeared in Black Static and was, if memory serves, my first exposure to Gary McMahon. I remember it puzzled me at the time, I wasn't entirely sure what it was about but had my theories... Re-reading it now confirmed those theories but I have to say reading the next story The Table helped greatly in cementing them. You want ghostly furniture-based stories? Gary McMahon's your man. C.S. Lewis might already have grabbed the Wardrobe but the place Gary's furniture is a conduit to is no Narnia...
Nine Lives takes us back out of the supernatural realm with a harsh tale of infidelity and revenge. If you like cats, maybe give this one a miss...
Truth Hurts is a love story. Yup, that's right. It's a twisted love story of course with the title a real affliction for one of the protagonists. It's a metaphor made real (with horrific consequences) which, in a paradoxical way, somehow manges to reinforce its meaning.
Down is perhaps the most traditional scary story in the book. It's an effective little chiller that preys on our fears of being trapped in the dark. My love of the "Stumphole Cavern" monologue notwithstanding, I really liked this homage to RamseyCampbell.
Sounds Weird is possibly the bleakest story of the collection. We all have our "what if..?" moments, regrets over decisions made or not made that in hindsight we would have handled differently. The grass isn't always greener but sometimes not even having the opportunity to find out makes the reality we find ourselves in even harder to take. The reality the characters in this story find themselves in is about as bleak as it gets - and there's no-one better than Gary McMahon at describing that world.
The Row treads more traditional supernatural ground. Are places haunted - or is it the people who visit them? There's just the right amount of ambiguity in this tale of a row of houses with a dark history and their influence on the council surveyor visiting them prior to their planned demolition.
The Sheep is set on my home patch of Northumbria and begins with the all too accurate proclamation that "it always rains in Northumbria in the springtime". It surely does - when it's not snowing that is. There's a feel of Lars Von Trier's Antichrist about this one with a troubled couple seeking solace in nature and coming across... well, in the film a fox disembowels itself, turns to the camera and says "chaos reigns!" The titular creatures in this story don't actuually speak but chaos well and truly reigns by the story's conclusion. I really liked it.
Small Things do matter. Common courtesies and pleasantries make life better for all of us. This is another fable-esque (is that a word?) story telling of the dangers inherent in forgetting those niceties,opening up the first cracks in the ultimate breakdown of society. It's a dark fable of course, and extreme - but chillingly effective.
It Knows Where You Live rounds off the collection in fine style, reflecting a lot of the themes already explored in the earlier stories, wrapping them all up in a neat little tale about a DVD of the same name with malevolent properties.
This is an excellent collection of stories and maintains the exceptionally high standard Gary McMahon has already set with his previous work. Should you go and buy it? Yes, of course you should. Except you can't. But if you could...
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