TALES FROM THE REALM VOL 1
Edited by Dustin Schyler Yoak & A.A. Medina
Aphotic Realm Publishing
May 1, 2018
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis
WOW! What a seriously awesome collection of mind-blowing speculative fiction! I have followed Aphotic Realm since issue number one, when they had to explain the exceptionally high quality of their digital publications to me. As a reviewer, this what I like to see and hope for every great first from an independent writer or press. With each consecutive issue, Aphotic Realm has grown by leaps and bounds due to the collective efforts of everyone involved. I think it is safe to say that they have created a community of like-minded individuals who are making the overall writing world a better place. Ahem! Enough compliments! It’s time for me to sit up straight in my chair and give you the rundown on Tales from the Realm Volume One.
What better way to start off than with Silencing the Bell by rising star Gary Buller? I’ve read quite a few of Buller’s stories and this one has a chilly precision that slices to the bone. Dare I say it? I think Buller’s writing has matured and become more polished. Very tight, clean and dangerous like a brand new straight razor! Harry Stubaker has made a grievous error and it is only fair that he pay for it. In fact the bell demands that he do so. Life has become unbearable, piece by piece until the climax. But will there be an end to the terrorizing? It’s up to the spirit world to make that choice.
From spirits to something more physically tangible, we go on to experience some Black Lung Hay Fever by the master of flash S.E. Casey. This illness will take your breath away with the slow build that starts with a mysterious scarecrow in a gone to hell hay field. Ancient and only visible for small portions of the day, the scarecrow should be a stationary object, but is it? The only residents who might know the truth are the old timers. But they sit under the awning of Jasper’s store in silence while sipping their endless beers. Now you see them, now you don’t!
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I don’t live in a posh neighborhood. Between dealing with the mad fence pisser and pharmaceutical salesmen that do most of their business at 2 in the morning, there are times when a gated community sounds attractive. But, at the same time there’s all those rules and if you deviate by doing something crazy like change your door color from black to yellow there’s going to be trouble. In The Yellow Door by Isha Ro, such a situation occurs and the neighbors go wild. Is their madness caused by a simple door change or by something that was there all along?
Maybe it’s because I used to be a hospital janitor in one of my previous lives, but I really connected with Enid and the Owls by K.T. Wagner. As I read it, I could feel the cool, damp lilacs and the desperation to do things right. Enid Bailey, dutiful cleaner of an old folks’ home, goes above and beyond for her patients. All the elderly ladies remind her of a different kind of owl, which is an apt fit because Enid works the night shift as do the nocturnal hunting owls. There is something about being a uniformed cleaner in these settings-maybe because we listen. Whatever it is, night nurse Abigail is not a fan and when she goes into screech owl mode, everything changes…
Is it possible to haunt yourself and by doing so, make your life an odd charade? My Better Half by Mark Blickley tells such a tale. When Andrew hooks up with his cardboard self, Sir Andrew, life gets great and awful at the same time. At first, it’s kind of funny when Andrew’s better half makes his appearance. But as things roll along, there’s a feeling of desperation. It makes me think of The Picture of Dorian Gray a little bit. As the laughter fades and life continues, you wonder: how does one live up to their flawless self? So convincingly told, it feels like nonfiction and I like that.
It would be remiss to do a review of this collection and not look at S.J. Budd’s The Forgotten House. Kirsten rides the train to work and every day sees something that no one else appears to. There’s a house that could potentially be a home for her. But how would that be possible? All the work to be done…Who would help? Then new developments occur and Kirsten isn’t sure what to think! When she attempts to show her fellow train passengers what she sees, everyone is too absorbed in their electronic devices. In my opinion, The Forgotten House contains two horror stories. Are we all just ghosts in the machine isolated by our own hand? What of Kirsten’s hooded helper? Friend…Or foe?
There shouldn’t be any questions regarding my rating of this book, but just to clarify-FIVE STARS! I highly encourage you to buy the paperback version so that you can display Gunnar Larsen’s fantastic cover art on your bookshelf or coffee table or wherever you keep your damn books! The whole book has obviously been carefully thought out and features just the right amount of writing from the editor. Obviously the editors are glad you’re here, but they let the stories do the talking. Thank you for saving us from those rambling book forwards that go on for 40 pages or so! They haven’t crushed wildflowers and added them to the paper, but they have given each contributor a fun-sized bio where you can find out a little more about them, other places to read their work, and to share the fact that being a Realmer is indeed a worldwide phenomenon!
Twenty fantastic stories in one badass collection. Get your copy of Tales from the Realm Volume one TODAY!