Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hellbound Hearts: Part IV

Here we are after a lengthy intermission, the final strip of short stories from the “Hellbound Hearts” anthology, which get better and better. Although these are the final stories and thus my reading concludes I will provide a roundup with links, which I failed to do with the initial post.

“Only the Blind Survive” by Yvonne Navarro, Pages 15: For all the Native American mythos fans this story will be a delightful one as it reads as an oral legend that has been passed from generation to generation in a tribe. As open as I am to the world mythologies and legends I am not hooked on the Native American vibe. Navarro has in my opinion done a formidable job into translating the Cenobite monster and the puzzle as a gateway into this setting and cultural background with a monster that is quite unexpected, who unlike the Cenobites encountered now has weaknesses and is defeated by Wikvaya and his brothers and brothers, who are spirit warriors. Although interesting, clever and well engineered I didn’t quite enjoy it since it strayed a bit too much from the concept for me.

“Mother’s Ruin” by Mark Morris, Pages 17: Our protagonist is Elliott, a rather unpleasant and disgusting individual, who as all BDSM freaks abides the perverted union of pain and sex. His life is rather putrid and pathetic. His head filled with disgusting sexual thoughts and it’s no coincidence that he is led by a trail of scattered clues to a warehouse, where all his perversion can be let loose. That happens, but so does something soul damning as he meets the Mother and learns rather frightening details about his parents, who left him for adoption, and are at the bottom of his temptation. I can’t say that I felt scared by this story or had my guts coil at the descriptions and yet this one has vividly stuck in my head. And in the end this is what counts.

“Sister Cilice” by Barbie Wilde, Pages 10: I am a sucker for transformation stories, which is particularly why I enjoyed “The Confessor’s Tale” so early on in the anthology and why I am rooting for this one. We have Sister Nikoletta, a nun and the female embodiment of morale, who seems to be haunted by unsavory dreams and while she tries to purge her desires through mortification of the flesh and a trusty whip, she unearths new dark desires. In satisfying her desires she discovers information documented by the church about the Order of the Gash aka the Cenobites and invokes them to become a member of their exclusive club. This one was a pleasure to read, because nothing is better than willing damnation of the soul in order to gain power.

“Santos del Inferno” by Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Pages 16: The roads to damnation vary in shapes and sizes and this is what this story explores. In the exploration of cultures and the search for new deadly puzzle-traps that summon the Cenobites Mariotte presents the traditional santo [religious art objects] in a rather twisted light. The protagonist here is Ron Marks, who after losing his family due to traffic accident has become an alcoholic shut in. His life changes for the worse when Leonardo, the man responsible for the accident, pops into his life and promises to make it up to him for the death of Ron’s wife and daughter. But good intentions in this anthology are not entirely pure. The events that unfold after Leonardo collects all the perverted santo statuettes are most intriguing. There is even some justice in the mix.

“The Promise” by Nancy Kilpatrick, Pages 13: There is the gore fest and torture porn horror, which relies on the physical to scare and there is the cold, seething and billowing stories that freeze your breath entirely, when you realize that hope has been strangled in cold blood. I am always open for stories from both calibers and Kilpatrick delivers. The story revolves around a group of Goth friends, who are bound by promise to the Cenobites to return on a given date and sacrifice one of their own. There is a twist, when the new rendezvous time is set and this is where the chill comes from. The protagonist is mathematic-savvy Karen, who figures out the grizzly change in rules and the applications. And she is also of special interest to the Cenobites. The one thing I didn’t like was the voice, which was written in second person point of view and read rather alien to me.

“However” by Gary A. Braunbeck and Lucy A. Snyder, Pages 13: The reader is introduced to the kidnapped and used as torture victims trio Lewis, Penny and Carl. Kept in a basement and starved, tortured and humiliated by the Cold Ones, a couple with sadistic tendencies and the urge to summon the Cenobites to grant them wishes and harness their power. However as Penny escaped to bring the guys food and the mysterious puzzle box that is said to summon these monsters, things change from grim to grizzly and hopeless after the Cenobites enter the scene. Naturally there is a rather delicious twist and an element I had yet to encounter in the anthology. Rather devious.

“’Tis Pity He’s Ashore” by Doug Bradley, Pages 16: As far as I am unwilling to say I found a story in this anthology, which I didn’t enjoy. It’s also unfortunate that it happened to be the closing story. As with the beginning we have a story devout of Cenobites’ active presence, but here I am not so sure how it closes the anthology, because I couldn’t get much sense of it, even when I re-read it. Because of this I refrain from handing out an actual opinion of it, but it certainly is tamer.

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