Book Title: Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 21
Authors: Michael Ezell, Will Swardstrom, Terry R. Hill, Amira K. Makansi, Jessica West & Daniel Arthur Smith
Editor: Jessica West
Publication Date: January 26, 2018
Available On: Amazon as an eBook and a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
The twenty-first edition of Canyons has all of your short story needs covered, getting readers into a gruesome Christmas spirit. The holiday theme is present throughout the majority of the collection with a wide variety of stories. Although none of them feature a red-nosed reindeer or a big man in a red suit, all of them are terrifying and all of them are well done, starting with:
Michael Ezell’s “Captain Sharpteeth” – Eddie is a 14-year-old teen whose friend was horribly murdered but no one knows what happened. But when Eddie and his friends find a new collectibles store, what will they discover about the murder?
This is a visceral tale that puts you right into the mind of a teen, experiencing the world he inhabits and the depth of his loss. The primal terror it invokes is grisly and the suspense of its mystery kept me turning pages. And all of Eddie’s friends were real people, not just characters, given strong motivations, appreciation of pop culture and unique personalities.
Will Swardstrom’s “A Cookie Cutter Story” – When Jeremy and his crew want to rob a dead old lady’s house for valuables, Tyrone joins in, but not before calling his girlfriend’s voicemail to apologize again for his screw ups. But during the ransacking, what they all find puts their lives in extreme danger!
Each character in Jeremy’s crew stands out and handles this distinctive threat differently. The danger is creative, horrific and comedic all at the same time, as it’s the last thing you would ever expect. The author maximizes the potential in this scenario and I both laughed and went slack-jawed with awe at each new unlikely situation Jeremy’s crew faced.
Terry R. Hill’s “Third Shift” – Dr. Abercrombie is working the emergency room at his hospital during the holidays, covering for other doctors. As the doctor is working save lives, one unusual case comes in. Will they be able to diagnose and treat it in time or will there be disastrous consequences if they don’t?
This gripping story unfolds very realistically with authentic dialogue and mounting tension. It ratchets up the suspense with each page as the real horror of what’s happening is slowly unveiled and the reader won’t realize what’s truly happening until the end.
Amira K. Makansi & Jessica West’s “The Butcher Boy” – When Charlotte, a nine-year-old in the old south, calls Johnny a liar for saying he saw a ghost, she dares him to bring her to see it. What she finds down by the creek is scarier than she expected. Will she find the courage to face it?
Moody, atmospheric and dark all describe this spooky and engrossing tale about a ghost story that has depth, tragedy, and unpredictability.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Lacemaker” – Imogen is the titular character meeting with a very important client, Amory, who is going on a one-way long-distance business trip that requires a special procedure on his brain. But what is the procedure for and why is it so complicated?
The answers to those questions are fascinating and layered, filled with mesmerizing details and surprising developments, perfectly immersing me into its tale. This story takes place in the author’s rapidly expanding Spectral Shift (Spectral Worlds Book 1) universe and it doesn’t disappoint. It melds cyberpunk and science into a dystopian future that continues to delight.
Five captivating tales about loss, scary threats, ghosts, dangerous diseases and mind-altering procedures that encompass some of the best short story writers about there. I’ve read stories by many of these authors before and they never fail to absorb me with the breadth of their imagination and the strong skills it takes to write a concise tale. Add in the authors whose stories I haven’t read it before and it all adds up into another superb collection in the Canyons series.
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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. 38, 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 & Omnibus 11.”