Welcome to Moon Hill
by Anthony J. Rapino
Moon Hill Books (2012)
I always find it interesting when an author releases a short story collection that carries a share theme or setting. In the case of Welcome to Moon Hill, Anthony Rapino takes readers on a walking tour of sorts around the small town of Moon Hill, nestled in some forgotten patch of Pennsylvania. Despite its leanness, Anthony offers nineteen stories all situated in Moon Hill, shining a light on its residents. A good number of these stories are short, short stories, clocking in at merely a page sometimes. For me, it was the heftier stories that offered the real entertainment.
The first stand-out was a story called "Stanley," about a man and his dog. In this case, a man and his remarkably stupid dog. Stanley is one of those lost causes in the mutt world, and in his case he has an appetite for rocks. And it's on Halloween night, when the dog and his owner go out for a walk that the dog leads the man to the end of the road. Literally. And the strange, reclusive man living there. For me, as a dog lover, this was an easy charmer to get me into this collection, and the whole ordeal of putting up with a dog that's more trouble than it's worth is something I can relate to. The tension didn't build up quite like I'd hoped, but still darned good and with a very nice payoff at the end.
Another one, this one a gruesomely fun bit of horror and botany mixed, was "From Your Body They Rise." There's a very small piece called "Surreal Botany" that precedes it and gives a good idea of what to expect from the story, but it still doesn't prepare you for the creepy factor. A scientists discovers a new form of plant-life that feeds on carrion--ewww--then finds that it feeds on human flesh as well, and it's not exactly fussy if the person is alive or dead. This had a great Twilight Zone vibe to it, I thought, and might be my favorite from the collection.
There are some other stories with varying level of suspense or amusement, like "Hair of the Dog" and a great bit of dialog between a coffee addict and a shopkeep, or "And the Drums Went Thump Thump Thump" and its father-daughter conflict coupled with some unsavory intruders. Then there was a psychological twister called "Passing the Buck" about a man who's afraid of the dark. At first it didn't seem like it was going anywhere and then it makes a spiraling descent into the weird. I quite liked it.
All in all, it's a good collection that shows off some real gems of Anthony's work. My main issue with the collection was that I never really felt immersed in the actual town of Moon Hill. My preconceptions of the collection had me thinking there would be more allusions between stories, or perhaps recurring characters, maybe even a overarching story, but I didn't pick up any of that. Still, for a straight-up collection of short stories, it's one worth checking out.