Seven horror and fantasy stories inspire chills and awe in haunted and mythic locations, ranging from a serial killer’s lair to war-torn ancient Greece to the neglected Garden of Eden.
This is the first collection of short stories by DiCristofano—the title’s “Volume 1” designation presumes more are to be expected, and that’s not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all, especially for fantastic-fiction fans whose tastes run more toward thoughtful awe than splatterpunk and visceral torture-porn shock. Sometimes writing in a fetchingly archaic style more appropriate (despite modern slang) for Weird Tales in the 1920s and ’30s, DiCristofano conjures up seven macabre yarns (or six plus a plotless, introspective concluding monologue that lends the anthology its title). The material varies in quality, effectiveness and level of violence, but on the whole the stories testify to an imaginative writer with a skilled, even sublime grasp. The Lovecraft-influenced “Hydromancy 101” describes callous archaeologists and their greedy patron meddling with an unearthly biblical artifact, guarded since the reign of King Solomon and possibly capable of unleashing ultimate evil on creation. In “The Passing of Eric Webber,” a dying German soldier on the battlefield manages a rewarding conversation with Death after noticing that the scythe-wielding Grim Reaper wears tennis shoes under his charnel robe. “Divine Vengeance” revisits the lately much-revived Greek legend of the 300 Spartans, with a rip-roaring yet moving and philosophically profound follow-up in which slain hero-king Leonidas gets revenge against enemies, mortal and god alike, with the aid of vastly powerful new friends. Though this isn’t traditional inspirational fiction, DiCristofano’s Christian-religious outlook is most obvious in the longest tale, “Thy Kingdom Found,” in which a modern girl’s innocence (and, importantly, gift for storytelling) replenishes a certain long-lost Old Testament garden. And, yes, C.S. Lewis gets name-checked—though readers will also note some resemblance to Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe and the more magically inclined confabulations of H.G. Wells. And that’s not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.
A slender, variable but rich collection of fantasy-horror fiction, with a nonevangelizing emphasis on the spiritual.