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Shock Totem 2: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted Paperback – July 1, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Still, what this second issue showed me was that the first issue was not a fluke. Wood and company are committed to publishing quality fiction, and what I consider truly impressive, diverse fiction. It's all horror yes, but some of it is psychological, some supernatural, some fantastical. When you sit down with an issue of Shock Totem, you are not going to get the same formula over and over. You're going to get a true collection, and you're always going to be surprised and delighted.
Months passed. Then a year. Finally, this past July, the second issue of Shock Totem came out. Sure, that's a long time between issues, but let me tell you, it was well worth the wait.
Issue two of Shock Totem just might be the best magazine I've ever had the opportunity to read. Unlike the first issue, in which I found there to be a couple duds, there were none such here. Every story tipped the scales upward towards fantastic. For my review of the first issue, I simply pointed out my favorite two stories, seeing as I didn't want to expose the ones I didn't like. For this issue, seeing as all were fantastic, I will give my quick-hit thoughts on each.
The Rat Burner by Ricardo Bare - A creepy tale of city slums, hidden doorways, and the price upon one's soul. The tone brought me in and wouldn't let me leave. Loved it.
Sole Survivor by Kurt Newton - A dark and strangely hilarious take on extreme game shows. In a way, it reminded me of a more concise version of Running Man's concept.
Sweepers by Leslianne Wilder - Wow. This one grabbed me. A short piece about the waters of the world rising. I'll never look down from a skyscraper the same way again.
The Rainbow Serpent by Vincent Pendergast - The tale of a man on a bus ride and an ancient creature who's adapted to the times. Definitely my favorite of all the entries. The tone and themes enclosed within are fantastic.
Hide the Sickness by Mercedes M. Yardley - This is a nonfiction essay by one of the magazine's editors, but it is such a brave and heartfelt piece of writing that I feel I must include it here. Ever wonder about juvenile sex offenders? Let's just say that the story of Mrs. Yardley's experience is one you won't soon forget.
Pretty Little Ghouls by Cate Gardner - Another quirky and fun little tale. I won't explain much, because the plot hinges on every word, which takes talent. It's quite good.
Messages from Valerie Polichar by Gra Linnaea and Sarah Dunn - This, for a while, was my least favorite story. The inclusion of technology and technological terms in a work of fiction has a tendency to turn me off because it can date the tale horribly. However, this one, by the end, I grew to appreciate, and it became my second-favorite. It's the story of a woman who obsesses with the dead and Facebook. Sound like an odd plot? It is. And it works.
Return from Dust by Nicholas D. Bronson - A man (soldier?) is blown to bits and is reconstructed. A good exploration what it means to be human and the point when we lose touch with that humanity.
Leave Me the Way I was Found by Christian A. Dumais - This short tale is very Ringu-like and eerie, about a video that causes sickness in the masses. There's a melancholy sense of doom that hangs over it like a cloud of acid.
Upon My Return by David Jack Bell - What would happen if a Christ figure were to appear in the present day? This depressing little story of a misunderstood carnival worker says it all.
That's it for stories. There is also a review section inside, an interview with James Newman, and Howling Through the Keyhole, a Shock Totem staple, where the authors give their thoughts on the creation of their stories. The editors, led by K. Allen Wood, have put together a master collection of the macabre. All in all, it is a rewarding literary experience.
I highly recommend this magazine, and those to come. The only problem I see with it is this: With the quality found within, the bar has been set, and set HIGH. It's a lot to live up to for issue #3, which I will be waiting for with bated breath.
My favorite story was "The Rat Burner". It was a deliciously dark and gritty story. I'll have to look up Ricardo Bare's other work.
"Sole Survivor" was a humorous twist on adventure style reality shows.
"Sweepers" was decent but a bit lacking. I was left with too many unanswered questions. A longer story could've filled in those gaps.
"The Rainbow Serpent" was surreal with its horror. I really enjoyed the blending of myth, reality and nightmare.
"Abominations: Hide the Sickness", a non-fiction piece, was creepy. It also made me wonder if it's worth it to keep certain people incarcerated for life. I'm not sure they're human anymore.
"Pretty Little Ghouls" was a short bizarro piece. I liked it.
"Messages from Valerie Polichar" is a nice little ghost story that explores death and social media.
"Return from Dust" held an interesting premise, but I felt the execution left a lot to be desired.
"Leave Me the Way I Was Found" successfully grabs Lovecraft's penchant for not describing horrors that are incomprehensible to the human mind. In this case the author, Christian Dumais, suggests how the world would react to a certain YouTube video. In Lovecraft's day, the dark things were whispered about by a select few. In the Internet Age, no one whispers anymore; they broadcast.
"Upon My Return" had a hint of Bradbury (people forget that he wrote horror too) in the way the story was told. I liked it.
As usual, the cover art is great. Now to pick up issue 3.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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