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Shock Totem 4: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
This time around there was a very diverse ensemble of authors from varying backgrounds, with established names like Weston Ochse, as well as first publications for authors like Tom Bordonaro. There's also a couple of interviews, one with Kathe Koja that turns into an opining on the state of publishing today, and a chat with one of this issue's contributing authors, Renny Sparks, that includes discussion about her music career. And one of the missing sections from digital editions is the book review portion, with some interesting looks on books, films, and albums by John Boden, Robert J. Duperre, and the witticisms of Ryan Bridger. There's also a brief essay by head honcho, K. Allen Wood, that provides a surprising punch to the stomach.
As far as the stories are concerned, this issue begins with a tragic gem by Lee Thompson called "Beneath the Weeping Willow," about Davey, a young autistic boy's ordeals within his family as he and his older brother, Jacob, cope with the break-up of their parents' marriage. The story is told in the rare second-person perspective, which is a hard nut to crack, but Lee seemed to have the perfect story in which to use it. As for the relationship between Davey and Jacob, it's heartbreaking and all too believable.Read more ›
Shock Totem 4 looms large above the average collection.
Running down the stories that I liked the most:
Beneath the Weeping Willow- by Lee Thompson. I liked this one so much I bought some other offerings by Mr. Thompson. 5 Stars!
Full Dental -by Tom Bordonaro. This was his first published story and it was Freaking Awesome! Fun filled, tongue in cheek and creepy. 5 Stars!
Fade to Black-by Jaelithe Ingold. A different type of cemetery story. 4 Stars!
Weird Tales-by David Busboom. Super short, super excellent! 5 Stars!
Playlist at the End-by Weston Ochse. A short story with a music score. 5 Stars!
Dead Baby Day-by Michael Penkas. It sounds much worse than it is. 4 Stars!
A couple of other things you do not find in most collections of this type:
Bloodstains and Blue Suede Shoes by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones. This is a bit of a history lesson concerning horror and music. I loved it, especially the parts about Robert Johnson as I'm a big blues music fan. 5 Stars!
Living Dead: A Personal Apocalypse by the editor of this collection, K. Allen Wood. It is a touching, poignant story about an alcoholic father. What makes this story different is that it is true. 5 Stars
In short, I found this collection to be most excellent and unique. I will be looking forward to more of them.
My favorite selections of this consistently strong volume are Lee Thompson's melancholy oddity "Beneath the Weeping Willow" (which is narrated in second-person by its young autistic protagonist and never comes off as exploitative even given its difficult premise), "Playlist at the End" by Weston Ochse (which may be one of the very few serial killer stories that I've ever enjoyed, due in large part to its novel "playlist" structure and the sheer quality of the writing and characterization) and "Dead Baby Day" by Michael Penkas (a short-short story that perfectly captures what little jerks kids can be to each other). Also of note are the inclusion of some strong poetry ("Lobo" by Justin Paul Walters) and nonfiction ("Living Dead: A Personal Apocalypse" by editor K. Allen Wood, a true-life-horror story about watching a loved-one hitting bottom).
The paper edition is a sturdy digest-sized book (with numbered spine) and looks great on a shelf. The digital edition (which I picked up when the publishers offered it for free) is all the same fiction and poetry in an attractively-formatted file complete with a linked table of contents. Whichever one you pick up: you can't go wrong.
I'll mention my favourites: `Beneath the Weeping Willow' - about an autistic boy - was brilliant and heart-breaking, with excellent characterisation. `Full Dental' was great fun to read. That is one crazy workplace! `Weird Tales' reminded me of old-fashioned ghost stories, and it has a great last line. `Playlist at the End' is a good one about a serial killer's choice of music. As usual with Shock Totem, there's a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. I liked the `Living Dead' essay, and the section showing the inspiration for the stories is a nice touch.
I'll definitely be re-reading Shock Totem #4.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This had a great selection of stories, and I'll admit that although I started reading it because Michael Penkas has a short in it, "Dead baby day," I stuck around for the... Read morePublished 23 days ago by Lisa
Love Shock Totem to death. Usually a five out of five read for me but two of the shorts just didn't float my boat this time. Don't be put off though. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adrian Shotbolt
Shock Totem always gives me the creeps but this one gave only a mild chill in the air for me.
Beneath the Weeping Willows I read previously in a collection of Lee... Read more
I hadn't planned on doing another review for Shock Totem but I can't believe how consistently great this publication is. Read morePublished 21 months ago by LovecraftLass
The title of this review carries the bulk of my five stars. Not only is Shock Totem consistently great, each issue is consistently varied. Read morePublished on August 13, 2012 by Michael Wehunt
The dark and gorgeous cover art of Shock Totem's 4th issue is what first attracted me to the publication. Read morePublished on May 2, 2012 by Alexis A. Hunter