February 1, 2013

Rabid Reads: "Shock Totem #3" edited by K. Allen Wood

Shock Totem #3
edited by K. Allen Wood
Shock Totem Publications (2011)
144 pages
ISBN 0615435556

There is always something in an issue of Shock Totem that enthralls me, and for two issues now Mercedes M. Yardley has been the deliverer. Her trips down memory lane have twice led me along a path where something with very sharp teeth greeted me at the end. I don't always go for nonfiction, especially when I'm on the hunt for short stories--which ST provides with great proficiency--but if Mercedes is writing it, then count me in.

Okay, on to the fiction.

With this third issue of ST, they managed to pack even more stories in its pages than the two previous editions. Things kick off with a nasty little road story from Tim Lieder called "Bop Kabala and Communist Jazz." It's an unsettling little tale with a wheel man a self-styled preacher--of sorts--and a pretty little hitchhiker. From there, things got pretty grim. John Haggerty's "The Meat Forest" is a prison break story set in a Russian landscape that is about as unforgiving as any inmate's nightmare. The characters try to traverse a forest that requires them to always move, never stop, or else they will wind up like the rest of the poor souls who stopped along the way and became just another piece of the Meat Forest.

"Drift" by Amanda C. Davis is another standout story, a child's fear of the snow outside. "The snow is made of bugs," said Caden: that's how the story starts, and by god, the creepiness just ramps up and up as the mother tries to console her child and ease her own paranoia. Aaron Polson's "Wanting It" is another one that does a good job of squeezing every bit of atmosphere out of a story idea, with two friends and their obsession with ghosts and local legends, and wanting them just a little too much. I also liked the funhouse mirror that was Joseph Green's "Stitched," though I thought the title was a little on the nose.

I don't really have to press on in my praise for ST, do I? If you've read any of them, you ought know already, and if you haven't then you're missing out. There's thirteen stories, two interviews, Mercedes' essay, and more. There's bound to be something you horror fans enjoy.

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