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Although most of the stories in first communions: a collection of dark horror have been previously published, this is my first exposure to the writing of Geoffrey Girard. I'm so glad I got to read this varied and mostly entertaining collection.
Translatio - This as not my favorite story in the collection, but even it had it's moments. "Fleshy tentacles had shot out, snatched some middle -aged mother and an old man into the air; one of the woman's shoes flung out over an adjacent roof. Then, the balloon creature had fed, and blood rained again from an overcast sky."
Collecting James - A rather disturbing story of a most unusual and somewhat perverse collection.
For Restful Death I Cry - A future where medical advances have kept folks alive well past what would be considered a normal life expectancy. What happens when it becomes a healthcare norm to disconnect them all?
Dark Harvest - One of a number of favorites for me in this collection. A Dark Lord. Revenant. Witchman. A story which rarely gives the readers what they expect or what they want, but it is genuinely entertaining.
Not Fade Away - A strange, yet enjoyable story of a teen-aged girl working in a nursing home, yet it's so much more.
Unto the Lord a New Song - A wonderfully original story. One of the best I've read this year. Yeah, it has zombies, but it's the uniqueness of the tale that makes it so special.
Release Me - The stories get better and better. This one, a classic gothic ghost story with a touch of Lovecraft.
Psychomachia - A story of working in the coal mines in the early twentieth century.
Universal Adaptor - An interstellar musical diversion.
Misdirection - A wartime battle of magic-men.
What You Know - Loved, loved, loved this story of a Third grade writing assignment gone horribly wrong.
H.E. Double Hockey Sticks - My favorite title in the collection and it's prefect for this story of demonic twins on a Fifth Grade hockey team.
Where the Shadow Ended - The story of a young chimney sweep who gets caught up in his work.
Dead in the Water - Pirates who encounter a ship of the dead.
Crawl - I love the opening line. "In a large dirt field, three boys hunted for tarantulas." Another excellent tale.
First Communions - The title story and a wonderful coming-of-age tale to wrap up the collection.
It took me some time to adjust to Geoff Girard's style of literary horror, but overall the tales were original, fantastical, twisted, dark, and ultimately enjoyable. The stories vary in themes and writing styles. Some I liked more than others, but it's a good bet you'll like the ones I didn't and vice versa. There really is something for everyone.
At the end of the book you'll find Story Notes for each of the works in the collection. I always enjoy these little peaks into the writing process and where the story ideas come from.
first communions: a collection of dark horror is published by Apex Books which is appropriate since many of the author's short stories have appeared in Apex Magazine over the years. This collection is available in paperback and e-book formats.
Geoffrey Girard writes thrillers, young adult novels, and short speculative fiction. First appearing in Writers of the Future in 2003, Geoffrey has since sold more than sixty short stories. His novels include Cain's Blood and the Stoker-nominated Project Cain. He is the Department Chair of English at a private boy's school in Cincinnati where he teaches literature, horror, and creative writing.
My favorite is “What You Know,” and I liked it even more when I found out in the afterword that school kids helped him write it.
Wait. Maybe my favorite is “H.E. Double Hockey Sticks.” It’s about youth hockey, and starts with “Everyone on the team hated the twins.”
There’s a lot to like here, as Girard bounces around different horror genres. And now I have decided I like both “Hockey Sticks” and “What You Know” equally. Wait. “Hockey Sticks” has the line “Before you start whacking off any heads, I’d make damn sure those two are really demons.” It’s my favorite. For now.