Short Story Corner: Hell Zoo: Valentine’s Day Exhibit by Jessica West & Those Were My Friends by Bob Williams

Short Story Title: Hell Zoo: Valentine’s Day Exhibit

Author: Jessica West

Publication Date: March 3, 2018

Available on: Amazon as an eBook

Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Tiba is a tour guide for a special zoo where the exhibits are those whose souls are tortured over and over. As we meet the inhabitants of those enclosures, we learn what led them to their present fate and why they are so dangerous. The anecdotes for each these despondent souls is blistering, brutal and downright cruel. But their stories and the storytelling are both clever and pathologically hellzoodemented in all the best of ways, successfully enveloping you in the tragedy of each soul we meet. By the time I reached the end, I was mentally spent and even feeling depressed and especially broken-hearted after what I just read. It’s a powerful story that hurts because it immersed me so deeply into it.

I originally read this short story when it was published in Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 13, a collection filled with warped tales of love just like this one.

Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Jessica West include “A Heart for Mariah and other short stories” and “World Domination: A Supervillain Anthology“.

If you found this review to be helpful to you, please click here to go to the review on Amazon. Then navigate to the bottom of this review and click on the “helpful” button.


Short Story Title: Those Were My Friends

Author: Bob Williams

Publication Date: February 22, 2019

Available on: Amazon as an eBook

Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Decker is a member of Team Liberty, a five-man squad of elite soldiers, coming back from a successful mission rescuing an engineer from the clutches of Zang’s terrorist organization. However, before he can unwind, he’s kidnapped! Once he awakens, he’s bombarded during the interrogation and physically assaulted. Then, one by one, he’s told about each member of the organization his squad killed. Who is this person and why is he telling Decker all these things? And the conclusion is not what I would’ve expected and puts a cold and effective exclamation point on the whole story.

Ordinarily, we would see the bad guy’s henchman as cannon fodder, obstacles for the good guys to plow through on their way to accomplishing their main objective. But here, each bad guy killed is given dimension and personality by Decker’s interrogator. This startling approach makes the story move in unforeseen directions while also thoseweremaintaining a sense of foreboding danger and intrigue at what might happen next. As a result, each death is felt much more acutely than you might think it does, giving it extra emotional weight. It’s a road not taken that nevertheless packs quite a disturbing punch while telling a tale not usually told.

It’s this skill as an author that keeps me reading his stories. I’ve read this author before and his short stories have a way of cutting all the way to the bone with brutality and raw earnestness that set your nerve endings on fire as you read. This one is no different, with an unusual and innovative twist that demonstrates a different perspective and still emphatically makes its point.

With the excellence of this story, I would like to see the author write more stories in the vein of Team Liberty. This tale proves he can write a gritty and dark military action thriller if he chose to do so.

Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Bob Williams include “Lost Dog: A Short Story of Evil“.

If you found this review to be helpful to you, please click here to go to the review on Amazon. Then navigate to the bottom of this review and click on the “helpful” button.

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