I was recently contacted by horror author Barry Napier and offered the chance to review his recently released collection of short stories and poetry, Debris. While I am a huge fan of dark fiction and horror, I have been let down by a lot of my favorite authors recently (like Bentley Little and his pandering and incoherant "His Father's Son, which I impatiently waited for for a year), so I have really enjoyed broadening my horizons recently. I had never heard of Mr. Napier, and was unwilling to let myself get my hopes up, but I requested an ebook review copy of Debris nonetheless.
I was blown away.
This was one of the best collections of horror stories I have read in years, each story and poem was better than the last, and I was able to devour the entire book in a few short hours.
The collection consisted of 20 distinct stories/poems, and while they were all excellent in their own way, they each had their own flavor.
The first story in the collection, Grave Seasons was the story about a legendary backwoods cabin, located in an area where transients and thrill-seekers alike were known to vanish without a trace. The cabin is occupied by an unassuming elderly woman and a young man who is something of an apprentice to her life's work. When unexpected visitors arrive, the story takes a macabre turn for the worse.
(While I very much enjoyed Grave Seasons, it [presumably unintentionally] reminded me of the hilarious Britney Spears South Park episode. Because of that, I took the story with something of a TIC attitude.)
In Notes on how it all Ended, Mr. Napier capitalizes on the ever-popular themes of rampant biological plagues and goverment cover-ups and conspiracy theories. A resident of a small town in stricken with an unexplainable and horrific illness, which grows more virulent and life-threatening by the second. Cut off from the outside world, the story is his account of his declining health and the events that coincide with it.
While I totally loved the entire book, A Collection of True Evils was my favorite story of the entire collection. It is the tale of a fabled book, believed to have been cursed by an admitted witch and passed down among murderers and madmen for generations, each new owner adding to its power to bring death and destruction to any who attempt to read it. According to the legend, no one had ever read it in its entirety, and all who had tried had died mysterious and untimely deaths.
The book falls into the hands of a group of friends, one of which happened upon it while cruising an internet auction site. The friends had been meeting twice a week for five years in secret to discuss occult literature, and finding the seemingly-mythological tome book was a dream come true.
Or so they thought :)
In addition to the terrifying and fantastic selection of short stories, Debris also contains some of the best dark poetry I have ever read. Most memorable, Abandoned Bridges, which ever-so-eloquently lays out the consequences of fruitless trees.
All in all, Debris was hands-down one of the most entertaining and enjoyable collections of dark fiction I have read in years (and I read A LOT of dark fiction). If it is any indication of Barry Napier's usual style of writing, I have found a new favorite author. He was able to weave surrealism, horror, and excellent plot lines to create some of the best short horror I have come across in a very, very long time. If you haven't heard of him yet, you will soon.
Solid, 5 star read!!!