Book Title: Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 35
Authors: Wendy Nikel, Gordon B. White, KJ Kabza & Daniel Arthur Smith
Editor: Jessica West
Publication Date: October 6, 2019
Available on: Amazon as an eBook and a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
In this thirty-fifth issue of Canyons, four dark tales incorporate music into their stories. These stories feature such different ideas such as a society that is based around their talent with music, talking birds (!), strange creatures and using music to incite murder. Curious? You should be. Read more about stories inspired by this theme, starting with:
Wendy Nikel’s “Da Capo” – Grace lives in a vast empty home, drawn to the world’s most perfect musical instrument that plays heavenly music but cannot bring herself to touch it. Many long decades have passed but Grace feels the longing to play. When she does, what will happen and where will it transport her to?
The mystery behind what is going on here enveloped me into a tale filled with grandeur as we are introduced to a society where musical talent is the foundation for its entire societal class structure. The reasons why music is so revered in this society and the origins of its development are startling. As our protagonist reaches the pinnacle of society, we also see how her maturation as a person and as a talent impacts what happens next.
As the story crescendoed into its finale, I was held rapt by how the beautiful music took on a more sinister purpose, raising the tension to its peak. It then went on to break my heart into a thousand tiny grace notes, which then fluttered away in the wake of that stunning ending.
How these two disparate story threads are pulled together is immensely powerful and left me with a profound sense of sadness. Once you’ve completed reading this story, do yourself a favor and re-read it from the beginning. It enriches the storytelling experience when you do and makes for a more in-depth understanding of this tale.
Gordon B. White’s “A Song Like Laughter” – Katrina and Bradley, her almost-two-year-old, are living by themselves. Bradley’s estranged and angry father visits occasionally. But after an enormous gray and white bird starts singing a familiar tune, he then starts a conversation with Katrina. He has quite a story to tell and a huge revelation that will shatter her world forever!
The bird’s story is quite disconcerting and filled with sorrow while at the same time, trying to infuse Katrina’s life with hope. But what he asks for next is disquieting and even more unbelievable. The decision Katrina makes as a result of this conversation is one only a mother could make and yet, still impacted me with deep grief. And then the author pulls out the rug from under me with its surprising ending.
KJ Kabza’s “The Deep Dark” – Looking out over a gulch, our narrators’ home is surrounded by trees and overshadowed by darkness at night, other than the moon above. Remembering how his father taught him how to play the banjo, he listens at night until he hears an unfamiliar and mournful melody twanging through the night. Answering it with his own banjo music, he discovers something gruesome lurking out of the trees! What will he do?
The unusual thing he finds is still out there in the woods though. This atmospheric tale is filled with the unexpected and our narrator comes up with a daring plan to take care of the problem once and for all. Using music in a heroic way, the story builds suspense until it crescendos into an astonishing ending and a shocking bombshell that is the cherry on top of this terrific story.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Lost Tapes – The Q Mix” – Agents Muldoon and Meyer are interviewing Dennis Davison, a music curator. They ask him to utilize his music expertise and explain a recent string of suicides and self-mutilation when listening to a certain Q Mix Playlist. Discussing how this music has a peculiar impact on its listeners, they finally reach a conclusion. But what do they determine?
It’s a fascinating look at the difference between a DJ and a music curator and the two job descriptions. This difference is critical to understanding what’s going on with the psychoacoustic effects of this music playlist, what that is and how it affects a person’s mood. It deftly explains all of this and why it is so relevant to the story. It also explains the horrific effects this has upon a person and why they kill themselves in such a gruesome fashion. This is a downright chilling tale with an interesting and often unexplored topic with a spellbinding ending that blindsided me.
Three out of the four authors here are new to me and I look forward to seeing more of their works in the future. I highly enjoyed all the stories here, as each one composed a symphony of words with their storytelling to whisk me away with their resonant harmonies and immerse me in their worlds.
The idea of using music as a theme for this issue of Canyons is quite novel and this collection pulls it off with style, subtlety, and innovation. This continues to be one of the many reasons I enjoy reading the “Tales from the Canyons of the Damned” series, as it continues to push the boundaries of science fiction and showcasing authors with creative and visionary stories to share.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories published by Daniel Arthur Smith include “Klarissa Dreams Redux“, “Spectral Shift“, “Attack of the Kung Fu Mummies“, “Gazer: A Spectral Worlds Story“, “Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, Omnibus 9 & Omnibus 10.”