Friday, November 6, 2009

"Hellbound Hearts" Part III

Ah, with Halloween a big fiasco and time already slipping through my fingers I can say that I will have to wrap up the review of “Hellbound Hearts” in two larger posts containing the remaining sixteen short stories. Not as elegant as I would have liked, but then again with my new plan for online activity it’s the best decision so far.

“The Collector” by Kelley Armstrong, Pages 9: No matter that the subject of the anthology is of ghastly theme, we have an urban fantasy entry, which mutes the horror and the ominous. I liked the story for it showed that protagonist and puzzle expert Sarah Lane wasn’t innocent as she appeared. Certainly not one to be slow to feel that she turned into a victim, while called to solve a puzzle with far greater potency than any other design, Sarah obtains the puzzle, but is sure to leave a bloody wake in her path. Although the Cenobite’s handiwork is evident the tale is purposely left unfinished with an open end and a very enterprising miss Lane.

“Bulimia” by Richard C. Matheson, Pages 2: I am not sure this qualifies as a short story and not a vignette, but then again length has found itself to be obsolete, when the ingenuity of the writer guild is concerned. Matheson makes a successful merge between two horrors; one that is medical and one that is not so of this world, while the latter explains the first. Short and disturbing, but makes you think.

“Orfeo of the Damned” by Nancy Holder, Pages 17: Although I enjoyed this story I can’t say it is the most memorable one. It doesn’t make quite the impact even though it is deliciously cruel and evil in its design. Holder creates Lindsay to be suited to endure the torments in hell and develop a twisted version of the Stockholm syndrome, but her nightmarish paradise is set on fire as her boyfriend Jacob follows her in order to be her savior. In the end Jacob gets what he wants and Lindsay is punished and forced to lose her way again in the mortal world.

“Our Lord of Quarters” by Simon Clark, Pages 16: I never imagined that historical pieces would be placed here, since the mythology of the Cenobites and their actions are more in the area of contemporary horror. The result here is beyond satisfactory. The setting is Byzantium during its sunset on the political landscape and the only savior comes in the form of the Lord of Quarters, a Cenobite, who will deliver life back to Byzantium, if the emperor would pay the price and that would be a quarter of everything he owned. The story cements the idea that money is the only power that matters and the ideas worked by Clark are quite captivating. I had a small grudge on behalf of the protagonist, who was a slave in a very sacrificial mode that I didn’t quite understand, but as a whole, this was a swift and dynamic read.

“Wordsworth” by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean, Pages 15: What can I say here that can truly describe the magic when brilliant art meets brilliant story telling? At one hand we have the disturbing collage work and manipulation by McKean, which instantly fit into the subject and theme of this anthology. If you wanted to see the grotesque and caricaturesque world of ugly and twisted people, then I bet that that’s what it looks like. Then we have Gaiman’s mind, which has conjured this monster wrapped in intellect and unnatural love for words. A love that crosses the very line that distinguishes humans from monsters. A pursuit to fulfill it that infatuation and desire that leads you to hell itself. And it all starts with a crossword puzzle. Now that is scary,

“A Little Piece of Hell” by Steve Niles, Pages 14: I didn’t establish a strong connection to this story. It’s a given it has top notch quality in prose and devise, but it pales in comparison to the stories before. The setting is LA. The protag is an unsavory crook named Gordon Fuller, who chases after easy money in the shape of a small box. A search that leads them to a horror flick producer Thomas Harden, only to find disabled cameras, a murder scene, loot and after that a few uninvited demonic guests.

“The Dark Materials Project” by Sarah Langan, Pages 13: Apparently a lot can happen in between thirteen pages. I certainly didn’t think that Cenobites would mix so well with science and I guess that this is the beauty about the mythos. It can be applied to countless fields and the puzzles that summons these creatures can take the oddest shapes like cracking the genetic code that determines our moral compass. Black hole is swallowing California and the chief of the Dark Materials Project has to deal with the sudden departure of his pregnant wife, who might be a corporate spy, while being society’s scapegoat for meddling with things he shouldn’t be. Disturbing, provoking and proving once and for all that curiosity has opened Pandora’s box and will do so time after time.

“Demon’s Design” by Nicholas Vince, Pages 12: I can say that I found this quite mischevious near the ending, because we have a protagonist, who certainly makes an interesting character, even if it that isn’t obvious at the beginning. The focus falls on Justin, the protag’s boyfriend, and his father the amazing and quite deranged father Caruthian. At first glance Justin is paranoid about his father committing anything nefarious, but when Caruthian reveals his latest installation things go downhill. Vince captivated me with Caruthian’s masterpiece, which is on the brink of where talent crosses into uncomfortable places. I think that beauty here is in the details and the general vibe the author has infused within his work.

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