CLUBHOUSE: Review: “What Devours Also Hungers,” a horror collection by D.G. Valdron

Don’t be surprised if some of the stories are unbearably horrific.

OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.

WHAT DEVOURS ALSO HUNGERS – by D.G. Valdron

Publisher: Fossil Cove Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, April 2020

Cover Art – by Nancy Arksey

NOTE: All stories in this collection are by D.G. Valdron.

FICTION:

The Squad

Premise: 

 It’s a bit tricky recruiting mindless killers.

Review:

Starts off as a variation of THE DIRTY DOZEN. Except this lot make those guys look like saints. They’re not soldiers. They’re not  volunteers. They’re just killers. Gradually their nature is revealed. There’s a moment of realization and then the reader understands… and appreciates the logic of the extrapolation going on. Given the true nature of the killers, the method of controlling them makes perfect sense. Doesn’t work, but at least it’s practical and logical. Can’t help but think it could be the basis for the mother of all horror movies. Brilliant concept behind the premise, methinks.

The Hold

Premise: 

 Cordell never loved his wife. He never loved anybody, not even himself. So he was content to bury her on their farm. Pity about the tombstone, though.

Review:

Cordell was never motivated by emotion. Lack of empathy doesn’t even begin to describe it. But he did appreciate convenience. Such as marrying a woman who owned a profitable farm. Such as his wife dying accidently. Such as being able to get a good price for the farm. Burying her in the soil she loved earning his neighbour’s approval. But a subsequent brief gesture of grief provs his undoing. Too late for regrets.

This story is very much in the spirit of the old E.C. horror comics. Yes, a tale of revenge reaching from beyond the grave, but the actual mechanism of revenge is quite original and very disturbing. Never underestimate the power of a dead woman scorned.

Piggyback

Premise:

Funny thing about serial killers. They’re proud of the killings they’ve committed, but they resent being accused for murders they didn’t do.

Review:

A detective begins to suspect the serial killers he’s tracking down have copycat killers  mimicking them, but there’s no evidence, only anomalies and denials. Worse, if he proves his theory, it makes his fellow police look like fools. What’s a conscientious guy to do? Bad enough dealing with murdering maniacs. His suspicions about the “other” is beginning to take its toll. He’s not sure he wants to know the truth. The ending proves that the only logic which applies in a case like this is “Expect the unexpected.”

The Viruses of Quiet Desperation

Premise:

The trouble with getting to know your neighbour across the hall is that sanity may turn out to be abnormal.

Review:

This story jumps around in time and point of view. Essentially it examines itself from all angles simultaneously. Very much resembles the jumbled thoughts of someone obsessed with guilt. In a way, it occurs to me,  the main character is rather like a male Praying Mantis working up the courage to approach a mate. That doesn’t make sense, and yet it does. There’s need, and danger, and a fruitless desire to get away. Best to lock yourself in your own apartment. But hard to ignore the constant screaming. After a while it begins to act like a pheromone. Complex, convoluted story. Gives self-meditation a bad name.

Silence

Premise: 

 A burglar loves an empty house, but the owner coming home early is such a nuisance.

Review:

In this case the owner turns out to be both evil and dangerous. The thief, a young woman, experiences growing alarm and panic as her attempt to flee unnoticed becomes more and more difficult. Suspense and tension builds slowly, but steadily and convincingly. She regrets making herself at home. Once the owner realises he’s not alone… Sounds simple, but there are complexities and unpleasant revelations. Properly directed, it would make for a very suspenseful movie. I guess the moral of the story is don’t break into people’s homes. You never know what you will find.

Write Me

Premise:

In a space colony, consumables aren’t free. The community can’t afford to coddle a child into adulthood. They need to grow up right away.

Review:

Physical growth remains stable, but mental growth can be accelerated with the addition of implanted information. Trouble is, what if talking to your child is like talking to an adult older and more experienced than you are? How do you cope if your child becomes a brainiac far above your level? Or maybe it’s his disdainful attitude towards your manifest immaturity? Family stresses previously unknown. How do you maintain control? Practice discipline? Or, for that matter, avoid being humiliated? The science fiction premise is examined for its psychological implications. Advanced technology not necessarily the big step forward promised and assumed. Definitely a challenge. An extremely interesting story.

Moonwalker

Premise:

What happens when the Earth is abandoned?

Review:

 Long, long ago, in some “serious” magazine, I remember seeing a 1950’s image of a cyborg, a human adapted for living in space. Didn’t need a spacesuit or an oxygen tank. Was a haunting vision. If I ever come across it again I’ll recognise it immediately.

This story is about Earth on its last legs. Moonwalkers, or cyborgs, are being used to build Lunar colonies for the elites who are planning to abandon Earth. Lucy is one of the ordinary people being left behind. But she helped design the Moonwalkers and knows a thing or two. Question is, does she know enough to enable her to survive on the unbelievably alien and hostile world that the Earth is devolving into? It’s a race against time. In the meantime, the view outside her apartment window is utterly fascinating.

We are familiar with assorted theories regarding the consequences of a neglected environment. This tale extrapolates beyond generic disaster and assaults our imagination with specific details and images that are hard to forget. Equally hard, the choices Lucy is forced to make. A vivid and powerful story.

The First Men

Premise:

What if the first intelligent beings to build cities on Earth were not hominoids descended from forest-dwelling Apes, but from savanna-living Baboons?

Review:

 Their cities are crude, but serviceable with much potential. Trouble is they are not the only intelligent beings on the planet. There are those who wait till the “First Men” are ripe for harvesting. Still, the baboon men are inventive and adaptable. Can they survive till the rise of modern men? And if so, what role will they play?

This is a delightful throwback to the pulp fiction era of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and H.P. Lovecraft. They would have enjoyed this tale. It’s a lot of fun. And despite the appropriate-to-the-era trappings, curiously plausible, given the premise. Quite a treat to read, actually.

Secrets

Premise:

There are specialist magazines for all sorts of odd hobbyists. Why not a magazine for serial killers?

Review:

 This is a genuinely horrifying story. A lonely, poorly-socialized man has subscriptions to a couple of porno mags mailed in brown paper bags. One day a monstrously candid magazine which glorifies serial killers and their work is accidently sent to him. At first he believes it is simply a particularly perverse zine aimed at people who admire serial killers and their handiwork. Only gradually does it dawn on him the writers ARE serial killers boasting about what they have done in order to titillate fellow aficionados. One chap even contributes a humorous article on the difficulties he experienced disposing of his first victim’s body. The high quality photographs are disturbing, to say the least. A very slick magazine, in more ways than one.

I have a cousin who used to be the public spokesman for the B.C. Penitentiary service. He told me all sorts of amazing stories, some of which I dare not repeat. One thing he did confirm is that serial killers routinely receive a vast number of letters, including multiple marriage offers. (Mind you, this was back in the days before the internet.) For some reason, serial killers are celebrities who attract followers. A conundrum for psychologists and sociologists. Their popularity is a thing.

This story explores that attraction, with the young man repulsed at first, yet unable to throw the magazine away. Eventually he begins to take a contemplative, “objective” interest in its contents. This leads to a rather unusual story conclusion. Not violent or gruesome (well, a little bit), but deeply, deeply disturbing in terms of what it implies about certain hidden aspects of modern society.

I, personally, avoid crime horror fiction like the plague. Don’t want to read about Jack the Ripper, for instance. Yet I published two stories about him in Polar Borealis Magazine. Why? Because I felt they were original takes on the topic and very well done. I do publish beyond my own personal tastes. I would publish this story because it reminds us how deeply unpleasant serial killers really are, something TV, movies and social media often overlook in order to play up the fascination of “clever” and “charming” killers. Ted Bundy springs to mind. Actually, such people are scum. This story is an intense reminder of that fact.

Yes, it’s a cynical look at human nature. But really, it’s a cynical look at inhuman nature. If anybody deserves contempt, it’s serial killers.

Note: I seem to have little mental stamina these days. I’ve reviewed nine stories in this collection. I’m too tired to review the remaining six stories, but here are their titles which may give you a clue about what they are about:

The Vampire’s Provenance

Time in a bottle

New Age Rising

The Perfectionist

Wyrms

The Squad—Centipedes

And now, the…

CONCLUSION:

 This is a collection of horror stories after all, so don’t be surprised if some of the stories are unbearably horrific. What I find exciting about this collection is the wide variety of approaches Valdron uses to explore what horror really is. Fundamentally, though, what they have in common is his burrowing into the mindset of both victim and perpetrator like a parasitical worm gnawing away all pretense, wishful doubts and hypocritical rationalizations. No matter how unusual the premise or unlikely the situation, he gets right down to the core reality of genuine horror in a manner you won’t easily forget, even though you desperately want to. I’m impressed. Quite frankly, I’m impressed. If you are a horror fiction fan, this is a must read.

Check it out at:  <  What Devours Also Hungers   >

 

 

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