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Triplicity (The Terror Project) (Volume 1) Paperback – November 24, 2016
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I’ve always loved novellas because they offer the entertainment of a novel, but without the long-term commitment. I can usually read one in the time it takes to watch a movie, and they’re long enough that they generally end up being satisfying reads. I was pretty excited to stumble across this collection of novellas.
The three stories in TRIPLICTY also happened to hit upon topics I tend to enjoy, so maybe I was destined to love this book; the first is a life-after-death tale, the second is an apocalyptic tale, and the last is a ghost story.
BRANDO AND BAD CHOICES is a life-after-death tale that I found riveting. The clever twists and turns—not to mention Marlon Brando’s cameo appearances—kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. Longo did a great job of humanizing an unlikeable character, so that I was rooting for her by the end. The story flows seamlessly along, with several humorous moments that made me chuckle out loud. This author seems to have a knack for capturing the humiliating (but all too human) stuff we’d all prefer that no one knew. Of course, this is hell, so …
STEEL is a great concept, and I’ve always been attracted to apocalyptic stories. Several survivors are trapped in a shelter, trying to avoid flesh-melting rains, mutated beasts, lack of food, and of course, each other. Kudos to the author for delving into some Native American folklore as the story unfolds and meshing it with the end times setting, as well as leveraging the personalities of the characters into personal conflicts. I did feel that some of the action scenes in the second half could have flowed a bit better, but all in all, it didn’t detract from the impact of the story. This is the gory tale among the trio … with a side of bizarre.
THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT is a really unique tale about a young couple with twin babies who start getting haunted a few days before Christmas. The ghost starts moving things around, and the paranormal phenomena increase as they get closer to the holiday. Needless to say, the young couple is terrified, but have to face the spirit one way or another. The drama between the young couple is expertly executed, and the twist at the end makes it all worthwhile.
All in all, I’d recommend Triplicity to lovers of dark fiction, and I’ll be looking forward to the next installment in the project.
Triplicity is an well-written anthology of three very different stories, each offering the reader a unique kind of unease. In “Brando and Bad Choices,” Stacey Longo spins humor into her horror and has us wondering if recently departed family members are in heaven or hell as we learn their sordid histories. In the story “Steel,” Tony Tremblay takes us into a society of young people who survived a cataclysm and are left scratching to survive in a hostile and occult environment. Surprisingly, Tremblay manages to weave sex, cannibalism, monsters, the CIA, and burning rain into a very readable tapestry. Rob Smales winds up with a wonderfully strange and suspenseful holiday story of a gift-giving ghost in “The Christmas Story." A sense of discomfort lingers long after the end of this one.
“Brando and Bad Choices,” Stacey Longo’s dark cautionary tale that poses metaphysical questions about heaven and hell, karma, and the possibility of redemption opens the volume with a bang. It’s a nightmare that the everywoman/bad girl heroine, Stella, cannot seem to awaken from. And that’s exactly where the reader is placed. With her verbal pyrotechnics, dark humor, and dead-on images (someone gives the protagonist “a look so cold she could’ve cut it into chunks and poured scotch over it”) Longo is a virtuoso at keeping the surprises and the shocks coming right to the very last sentence.
While “Brando and Bad Choices” plunges us straight into hell, “Steel”, by Tony Tremblay, just as quickly locates us in a dystopian nightmare, a place where something very terrible indeed has occurred. The how or why scarcely matter, because the what is so immediate that there’s no time to ponder causes. The small cadre of characters, vividly rendered and each known by a one-word name—Fleet, Stealth, Rock Whisper, Wise, and the title character, Steel—are in a literal moment by moment fight for survival.
“There was no escaping the gray rain . . . . Everyone it touched had gone insane.” In this scenario, the adults were changed immediately: “Their cognitive skills declined and their social behaviors regressed. They turned instinctual. Beastly. Hunting meat came naturally to them. Survival, their only priority. After the adults had feasted on their children, they took to the streets. A pack mentality had developed—they formed gangs, and attacked the young wherever they could find them.” This is the stuff of intense drama, and Tremblay packs more action, twists, and tension into the tale than stories at twice and three times the length.
“Christmas Spirit” by Rob Smales, the final tale in the volume is, as the title hints, a holiday haunting. Part of its effectiveness is its retooling of the old “once upon a time” story template for the internet age, in this case in the form of a very long email message, whose unfolding covers many years.
Like the other authors, Smales writes with economy. He has an unvarnished style and a knack for creating believable characters. Beth and Randy Perkins are an everyday couple beset by everyday travails (raising infant twin sons, dealing with Randy’s new job at the Post Office) who are forced to confront some very extraordinary and disquieting events in the days before Christmas.
At the very end of Triplicity is a segment titled “The Story Behind the Stories,” in which each of the authors explores how his/her story came to be. As someone who loves to watch the “extra features” on DVDs of films I’ve enjoyed, I appreciated this bonus material.
But there is more. One time-honored function of story is to hold up a mirror in which the reader discerns reflections of deeper realities. Whether or not these are intended by the storyteller isn’t the point. Reading is a personal journey, one a reader takes alone. For this reader, there are terrifying undercurrents in this book that speak to our troubled times. Longo’s flawed but very human protagonist awakens to a landscape of chaos. Tremblay presents a world gone horribly awry because of forces of hatred and abuses of power. Even Smales’ ultimately affirming tale of holiday and family can be read as a warning against closing our minds to other possibilities.