Ronan, my boyfriend, bought me this for my birthday, because Garon works on one of his favourite podcasts, and he thought I might like the idea of a collection of short stories which all tied in to a longer narrative.
Don’t miss this terrific collection of horrifying tales by Garon Cockrell, founder of popculturebeast.com. Included in this edition are “Demonic,” “Eggs,” “Home Alone,” “What’s Your Pleasure?,” “The Strange Tale of Griffin Shard,” “Looking Glass,” “Interrogation,” “Manny,” “Prelude,” and “Haven.”
“DEMONIC is a veritable cornucopia of ghoulish delights! A real treat.”
— Brandon Ford, author of CRYSTAL BAY and PAY PHONE
“Raw-boned horror with veins of humor, splashes of surreal visions, and pathos… Bloodily gruesome entertainment. DEMONIC’s the one for fans of extreme story-telling who like a wicked twist in the tail.”
— Simon Clark, author of VAMPYRRHIC, THE MIDNIGHT MAN, THIS RAGE OF ECHOES, BLOOD CRAZY, STRANGER, GHOST MONSTER, BUTTERFLY, HUMPTY’S BONES, and many other novels
I appreciate Ronan’s thought in picking a collection of short stories he thought I might like, but this was, actually, a terrible collection. There was so much to dislike about it, I find it hard to know where to begin.
Firstly: the title. For some inexplicable reason, the book is called ‘Demonic and other tales: the short fiction of Garon Cockrell’. So the author’s name is in the title of the book. I have yet to figure out why this is, and it’s made it difficult to know how to title this blog post, or write it in my lists, etc. We got off to a bad start, this book of short stories and I.
I also had serious issues with the quality of this book. The typesetting was poor, with frequent rendering errors. This was especially prominent with em and en dashes, which often didn’t display at all. But on top of that, the starndard of writing was very poor, with frequent comma splices, fragments, and poorly constructed sentences. This distracted from the actual stories, which was frustrating again. And as well as that, the book was poorly proofread or copy edited. There were lots of examples of synonyms and typos going uncorrected – one I noticed frequently was peak used where peek should have been, but there were multiple others, including accept instead of except.
So in terms of how the book was put together, I was unhappy, which meant that I was then distracted from the plot itself (or itselves). This was always likely to make me more harsh on the book, but to be honest, I would have been quite harsh on this anyway. It’s marketed as a collection of horror stories, but it’s not so much a collection of horror as a collection of gore and slasher fiction. There’s no explanation for why some of the horrendous violence occurs in the short stories, just description of seeping blood and trailing entrails. There’s no joy in reading about descriptions of gore if there’s no fear or horror behind them. I could just read crime scene reports if that was my jam.
As well as that, the stories really failed to stand on their own. Lots of them focused on gore rather than horror, but there were a few which didn’t really tick boxes in either category. Eggs, specifically, was one which I thought was just incomprehensible.
The first short story in this collection is about a man on a killing spree, because of … jealousy? There’s no explanation for why he snapped like this, and what becomes clear later in the story is that he’s not even meant to be the main character, but rather one of his intended victims is. There’s no focus in these stories, and a scope which is either too wide or too narrow – I found it incredibly hard to get into any of the stories.
One of the reasons why Ronan thought I might like this collection was because the stories tie into a larger narrative arc. And, in fairness, some of them do seem to have a small connection to each other, in that some (not all) of them have connections to demons. But in a collection called ‘Demonic and other tales’, I would expect there to be a demonic connection between several of the stories. The connection here wasn’t worked through well enough, didn’t draw enough parallels, and to be honest, didn’t tie the stories together in a way which was at all satisfying.
My last complaint was that the cover of the book and the publisher, DoorQ.com (now defunct, shocker…), specifically flag queer stories in this collection. But there’s actually only one example of a queer couple to be seen. And they’re not human. I was really surprised at this, given the publisher, and that I know the author is LGBTQ. It felt a lot like tokenism, and I found it really disappointing and misleading that it was specifically flagged on the cover.
Overall, I was massively disappointed in this collection of short stories. It’s badly written, badly edited, badly presented, and generally not an enjoyable reading experience. The one and only good thing I have to say about it is that it was quick. And that might only have been because I was trying not to prolong the pain of reading it.