Hey everyone, Dave here.
I hope you ordered your copies of Dallas Mullican’s “A Coin for Charon”, which I reviewed on Friday.
Today’s review will focus on a short story collection by Dan Weatherer, titled “Neverlight“, published by Spectral Press.
Are we mere puppets, a slave to the will of others? Influence, an inescapable and unseen force exerted upon all of us. Can we ever say that we are creatures of free will, acting according to our desires and not of those around us? Influence is the white noise that bombards our every waking moment, clouding our thought, hindering our judgement.
Looking beyond our existence, there are those beings that dwell beneath the surface of our planet, ancient entities twisted in their resentment of our freedoms, that would mean us harm. Theirs is an influence ancient in its origin, born from evil and cruel intent. Their will presses upon us, calling out to our most primal instincts.
We, oblivious, heed their call.
This is a collection of short stories and verse, the third collection from Dan’s pen (check out Only the Good Burn Bright and The Soul That Screamed), and serves to put a spotlight on a storyteller of talent and range.
The collection opens with the tale, “Abarath“, a chilling, Lovecraftian tale about two friends discovering the truth behind a rumoured treasure; it’s atmospheric and builds menace and tension steadily.
The next tale, “Signed” is my pick for the most entertaining, since it focuses on a struggling Horror writer and the lengths he goes to to get an agent; it’s also a wonderful, satirical look at struggling authors and successful authors and I’m sure many writers will catch themselves enjoying it for all the wrong, yet spot-on, reasons.😉
“The Watchful Eye” is a great twist on the run-of-the-mill Haunted House tales, charting the implosion of a couple while revealing the utter strangeness of the house they live in.
“Time Flow and the Spectral Realm” reads almost like an extract from a larger essay and, in my opinion, needs a bit more to shift it into the realm of a true short story. It does offer an interesting take on a phenomenon many people have experienced and which I (as a paranormal investigator) have also thought about.
“My First Horror Story” shows that even children can be evil and calculating, yet reveals this in a darkly humorous manner.
“Meadow View” is a tale of friendship and darkness in a strange psychiatric facility, and though predictable in a sense, it remains one of the strongest tales in the collection.
“The Withered Touch” is a tale of misery and love, a tragedy which leads into a resolution which made me smile.
One of my other favourites, “The Raven and the Wolf” explores a strange yet beautiful friendship between two vastly different creatures, showing that perhaps companionship is the one thing which can bridge any difference.
“The Miners of Annan” is another foray into the creeping, stygian horror made famous by Lovecraft and has some truly creepy imagery.
“A Butcher’s Wife, Indisposed” sheds light how how one old woman ‘enjoys’ her stay in an NHS hospital bed while getting to know the other women in her room; of all the tales, it is the most well-constructed and incredibly entertaining.
“The Tragedy of the Tailor” seeks to show that finding the answers you seek could actually be a curse, but is almost too short a tale to explore that idea.
“The Thing Beneath the Bed” brings an age-old monster into the world of adults, and could have also benefited from a more gradual building up and exploration of the idea.
“Clarence Milton – Vampire Hunter” was, in my opinion, the weakest of the tales – I think it’s trying to explore the dark side of psychotic obsession when it comes to the supernatural, but doesn’t do so strongly enough.
“That Laughing Man” is really damned creepy and is one of the tales which lingers; really enjoyed the character’s investigation of a sinister-looking attraction.
“Six Feet” follows the travails of a grave-digger – definitely one of the most interesting tales in the collection.
“She Who Casts No Shadow” was engaging and tragic yet also ended a bit too quickly – I would have liked to read more of the main character’s experiences and been able to delve a bit deeper into her thoughts and psychology.
“Soul, Ugly” is a biting tale with a brutal stab of an ending, really damned good.
“Killing Gary” is a quirky look at a simply crazy woman and the back and forth between her and the detective interrogating her – Gary’s of the world, read it at your peril.😉
“Brammerly House” is another teasingly taut and creepy tale of what a child witnesses, and I feel it could have used a bit more to make it more effective.
The collection is also interspersed with short snap-shots of thoughts, idea-explorations and meditations, many of which still resound; I’m sure there’ll be many readers who will count a fair number of them among their favourites.
All in all, this collection is a great peek into what goes on in Dan’s head – his talents range across the board, from striking characterization while exploring interesting ideas, to being really effective at building tension and creepiness; I do wish that that some of the stories were a bit longer and that Dan strung the reader along for a couple of more pages before springing the climax. Some of the endings arrive so quickly that they lose their effectiveness even though they fit the tale. So that would be my only complaint.
I’m definitely looking forward to reading much more of Dan’s work (he’s got a novel on the way, too), and folk that like audiobooks will be glad to know that Neverlight will be produced as an audiobook, too.
The stunning cover art was created by Holly Madew – you’ll be seeing a lot more of her exceptional work, trust me!
I give this collection a strong 8 / 10 and hope you’ll check it out – it’s currently selling for a bargain-price on Amazon UK and Amazon US, and you can order the limited edition hardcover direct from Tickety Boo Press.
And do go check out Dan’s site for more info about him and his work.
Until next time,