Underworld Dreams cover shot

Daniel Braum
Lethe Press
TBR September 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Welcome once again to the Skullcave! In honor of the warm weather Finally arriving, I have set up an outdoor reading space on my front porch where I can listen to jazz and let my brain travel while pretending to be normal. The first book I’m reading here is Underworld Dreams by Daniel Braum, a collection of unsettling short fiction that will shake you up and leave you thinking long after you’ve finished taking it in. This fine book will be coming your way in fall 2020 from the home of unique publications-LETHE PRESS! This press champions different, with a strong focus on LGTBQ writers and audiences, and Damaged Skull Writer welcomes diversity, so let’s take a peek at what’s inside!

Starting the show is How To Stay Afloat When Drowning. This tale starts off as a story about saving the family business, but it’s also about a man coming to terms with himself and how his life has turned out, despite what he’d hoped for. He meets a strange, but intriguing woman at the bar, who reminds him of the events leading to his wife’s death. The family dynamic is uncomfortable, but the man loves his sister who owns the business. They share a strange family legacy of their parents being snatched up by a man who came to purchase a surfboard. Having the business survive requires entertaining a big bucks client and an obnoxious uncle with a shark hunting trip. It’s the usual big dick, ugly Americans killing animals to feel powerful affair. But it turns the client on so much, that he signs a contract. Hooray! Meanwhile something strange is happening to those who support shark hunting. A pair of “beautiful sharks seeking revenge on land” are making sure that plenty of blood and guts are spilled by both species. The dialog alone in this story is worth the trip into this Underworld Dream.

Sometimes though, a huge loss can be balanced out with magic and something like hope. Cloudland Earthbound gives us just that. Ben is the owner of a magical old dancehall named Cloudland. It’s a wonderful place that dates back to the era of big jazz bands, but also features touring rock and roll bands now and then. Unfortunately, a big developer conglomerate wants to take over Cloudland. Not to operate, but to destroy it and put up something modern and ugly in its place. Ben Myerson tries to take a stand against these people and their mythical leader, Sir Joh, but he doesn’t have the magic or the skills his father had. His son Aaron does, but Ben’s wife doesn’t want him involved with Cloudland. While Ben is at work trying to get things sorted, she takes the boy and slips away. Ben is distraught, weakened, but still determined to protect Cloudland and those who work there. Will things work out the way he wants them to, or is this “lynch pin site” destined for demolition? GREAT story!

What if you wanted something with every atom of your being and someone sketchy offered to help you get it? Would you take it, knowing that there might be a huge cost involved? In Tommy’s Shadow Marco wants to be number one, like Tommy is. He wants to look cool, have the best band at the high school talent show, and be the guy taking the beautiful Alana to the prom. Instead, he’s always going to be the far number two, maybe even three or four. The nerdy friend that Alana will be kind to and say his band is great, even though Tommy’s band is destined for Van Halen type fame. Then a treasure hunt in an abandoned mental institution yields up a nifty souvenir and a creepy new friend for Marco. The guy says he’d be happy to take care of Tommy. So against his buddy Richie’s advice, Marco takes the offer and waits smugly for results. At first, it appears that nothing is going to happen, then all hell breaks loose. Now Marco’s got what he wanted, but it isn’t fun anymore. More like being damned to an eternity of always being under Tommy’s Shadow. Heavy stuff!

Last, but certainly not least, is the wild “what the fuckness” of The Monkey Coat, starring an antique jacket made out of monkey fur. Do not miss this tale of absolute craziness involving this vintage player! “You know how they make them, right?” Is it really the coat or just the inherent wild beast inside all of us just waiting for an excuse to come out? Time to get naked, people!

So the question on everyone’s lips is, “Should I buy a copy of Underworld Dreams when it comes out around August?” The answer is a qualified “HELL YEAH!” This is FIVE BIG SPARKLY STARS of awesome reading that’s going to disturb you, make you think, and maybe even scare you a bit. Because Daniel Braum is a crazy good writer and Lethe Press puts out awesomely interesting books that you will want to suck through your eyeballs. Want to make a pre-order or learn more about this unique publisher? Then head on over to www.lethepressbooks.com They’ve got lots of great titles and bundles for you to check out! Maybe you’d like to learn more about Daniel Braum? Your wish is my command! Go to https://bloodandstardust.wordpress.com or visit www.facebook.com/DanielBraumFiction and my favorite place to be social, Twitter@danielbraum

Thanks again for visiting Damaged Skull Writer! Getting too damn sunny out here, so I must retreat back into the Skullcave before I turn to dust. Until next time, stay safe, be well, and love each other, because that’s the most important thing we have!   

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