Book Title: Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 38
Authors: Steven Van Patten, Amy Grech, Teel James Glenn, Jessica West & Daniel Arthur Smith
Editor: Jessica West
Publication Date: August 13, 2020
Available On: Amazon as an eBook and a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
In the thirty-eighth edition of Canyons, we get five dark short stories featuring dark themes in a bunch of different genres. From supernatural to horror to science fiction. Sometimes, more than one theme is utilized as well! There’s a supernatural tale of vengeance and a blood donation center that takes on a life of its own. There’s also a royal coup and a formidable protector trying to foil it, a lawyer with unusual thought processes and even more unusual actions, and synthetic humans in a far off colony hiding a dark secret. Read onwards to find out more about:
Steven Van Patten’s “The Patron Saint” – Keith’s teenage daughter Kimberly gets kidnapped by a record producer. Though they are allegedly in love, though he has a criminal history. Keith argues with Kimberly’s estranged mother Cathy about how Cathy is responsible for this. Frustrated, Keith talks to his mother, who promises to intervene. But what kind of help will she recruit, and can they get Kimberly back safely?
This is a troubling tale of poor parenting, family conflicts, broken relationships and the promises of fame, all leading into justified vengeance from an unusual source. It rips into your gut with its premise, explains its dark origins on how it came to be, and stirs up lots of emotions as you read it. The resolution of this tale comes from an unlikely place and is also disturbing in how it accomplishes its goals. This short story packs a punch in just a small amount of time.
Amy Grech’s “EV 2000” – On the eve of unveiling the world’s first computerized blood donation center, Harold encourages his wife June to donate. But when she does, at first, things seem normal. But as the EV 2000 begins to act strange and something unnerving happens! What is going on here and can it be fixed before it is too late?
Running underneath all of this is the thread of Harold and June’s emotions and how they drive their lives, from their work to their marriage. This adds a deeper resonance to contrast the horror of what we’re witnessing and why this is happening. It’s partly a horror story and partly a story about artificial intelligence running a blood donation center without any human staff being present. As a result, it is a deft blending of both these genres, told in an engaging and stomach-wrenching way.
Teel James Glenn’s “Fear of a Z’n – A Story of Altiva” – On the planet Altiva, Ku’zn is a Z’n is hired by the king and queen to protect their nine-year-old daughter, the princess Xuxa. Ku’zn’s job is to tutor the princess on how to protect herself, as well as be her bodyguard. But when the palace is thrown into disarray by a coup attempt, they flee! Can they survive and solve this problem before it’s too late?
The action is ferocious, and the terror is palpable as Ku’zn and Xuxa try to cope with this increasingly difficult dilemma. The Z’n are known as a fierce warrior race of beings on the planet and this proves to be a crucial element in this story’s resolution. There are plenty of twists and turns to this unpredictable story. I enjoyed how the battles were fought with physical prowess, cunning skills as well as mental fortitude.
Jessica West’s “The Boys in the Basement” – Junior is a highly intelligent criminal defense attorney in a small town in Louisiana who feels emotions deeply but comes across as cold at times. But, he also has highly creative solutions to seemingly undefendable situations. When Mya goes to trial for killing her boyfriend, something unsettling happens! How will this impact Junior and how he handles cases going forward?
Junior’s creative and sometimes emotionless approach to his cases and his clientele is an uncommon one. A formative incident in his childhood is examined and how it impacts his life today is analyzed. This fascinating origin then is used to see how each case uniquely impacts the way he empathetically practices law afterward. An extraordinary story about an atypical mind and how it is utilized unpredictably.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Invader” – Evan, his sixteen-year-old daughter Nellie and his wife all live together in the colony in New Dunedin, very far from Earth. When Nellie reports some lingering dreams, she feels they are very real, Evan questions them. That is until he starts experiencing them himself! When he investigates, he finds an unexpected secret that rocks his world. Will he find the solution he’s looking for?
I enjoyed the family scenes together between Evan and Nellie. Even on a colony on a far-flung planet, some things never change, like gossiping about other kids and their activities. Also, the politics going on here present some nice background that proves to be critical to this story’s central mysteries. As for the ending, I could not have guessed it no matter how hard I tried, as it presents an explanation and a solution so remarkable, I was stunned.
This story takes place in the authors “Spectral Worlds” series. If you’ve already read some of them, it also adds some intriguing layers to the mythos. Just know that it completely stands on its own as a short story as well. That means the sky’s the limit on where this story can, and does, go.
Three authors are new to me here, Steven Van Patten, Amy Grech, and Teel James Glenn. They are great new voices who contributed some delightful tales to this collection, and I hope to see more from them in Canyons in the future. Jessica West and Daniel Arthur Smith do their usual excellent work with their mind-bending stories. No matter the genre, all these stories are terrific and engaged my imagination in new and creative ways.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories written by or published by Daniel Arthur Smith include “Clones: The Anthology“, “Klarissa Dreams Redux“, “Spectral Shift“, “Attack of the Kung Fu Mummies“, “Gazer: A Spectral Worlds Story“, “Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, Omnibus 9 & Omnibus 10.”