Friday, July 13, 2012

Engines of Empathy - Prologue

Here is the full text of the initial draft of the prologue of Engines of Empathy


     As always, leaving things to the last possible minute was proving to be a bad idea. In this case, a particularly bad idea as the last possible minute included the sum total of the time remaining in his life. He always expected he would die in his bed, or someone else’s bed many years hence. Warm, comfortable and surrounded by impatient descendants with something cryptic to say as his last words. He’d given his penultimate utterance a lot of thought, “My only regret is that you never met your birth parents,” had been his personal favourite. He imagined saying it to his grown up children and watching their faces as he drifted off.
     Of course his darling wife would be deceased by then, out-living that most perfect of women would be the honourable thing to do. Fate appeared to have a different opinion as she was away visiting her parents until the baby arrived. In his opinion the installation of children was a fine thing, but taking delivery of the finished product nine months later? That he felt was better left in the hands of experienced women.
     The rain and crashing thunder outside made it difficult to hear the whine and click of his approaching assassin. The only lighting available in the large mansion was the flickering glow of candles, and there were precious few of those.
     “What-ho Mr Wibbly?” he called into the darkness. Somewhere out there a door handle rattled, and then exploded out of the frame in response. The prototype possessed remarkable strength, but very poor fine-motor skills. Dashing on stockinged feet he made for the library. Closing the door he went to the fine writing desk that took pride of place in the room. He had bought it at an auction, recognising it as living oak, the rare wood that had been a key to the discovery of the age. The discovery that was now going to get him killed.
     The letter was complete, but there would be no time to post it now. He paused, listening between the rumbles of the storm outside for approaching death. There it was. The whirr and click of clockwork gears; the slow, deliberate sound of approaching betrayal. The letter folded up into a narrow strip, with shaking hands he prised open the hidden slat in the roll-top desk’s cover. Pressing the letter inside, he winced as the office door shuddered under repeated blows.
“I’ll be right there!” he called. Sliding the slat back into place, he patted the desk fondly one more time and whispered, “That should cause someone no end of trouble.” He smiled and went to meet his death.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Ghosts In A Desert World - Review

Matthew Tait is one of those Australian speculative and horror fiction personalities that has always intrigued me. He's a smart guy, and his views and opinions of what is going on in Australasian literature are worth noting. I was pleased to pick up a copy of his freshly released collection of short stories Ghosts In A Desert World

It's currently free on Amazon, but they tend to only allow you a free give away for 5 days at a time. The collection is worth acquiring, even if you do end up paying for it.

There are names that get tossed about when one is reviewing horror writers. Matheson is a good example, I've been compared to the late master myself. Tait does have some of the classic gore elements of Matheson present and very correct, but he also has that wonderful element usually found in the short stories of Joe R. Lansdale.

Remember when Lansdale wrote really fucked up fiction? His collection BY BIZARRE HANDS remains one of my favourite short story collections. The comparisons between Tait and Lansdale come when you experience the dread that both manage to so easily create. Tait's stories put us in a world that could be just around the corner for any of us. The country road, the small town, the invevitable outcome of too much popular culture, and a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life.

If I have one gripe with the collection it is that it is too Americanised. There are stories set in Australia, but they have American protagonists. The ones set in familiar locations of the USA are fine, but I wonder if they were written for an American market, which is disappointing as there is a good market for Australian horror of quality.

Tait loves gore, there's nothing here that focuses on suspense or only superanatural elements. It's visceral, every fleck of blood, every carefully orchestrated slash of a throat, or a wrist or a disembowling (which seems to be a personal favourite of the author) is well choreographed and adds to the intensity of the story. Not two characters are the same in this collection. The only common ground they share is folks from various walks of life finding themselves in situations that they didn't plan on, facing foes so unspeakably fucked up that you understand them thinking that this is some nightmare they have to wake up from.

Final verdict, a good gore filled collection of strong horror stories. The writing is competent and imaginative. The stories deliver and the blood just drips from every page.

Read it. You shouldn't be disappointed.