A ghoulish collection of short sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories that explore strange and haunting possibilities.
In this macabre collection, each story borrows from and blends genre fiction, fairy tales, and historical events, as in “The Alamo Incident,” which re-creates the Alamo Mission as a casualty of eldritch beings roaming the American countryside. Most of the plots adapt a common trope (the boy who cried wolf during the Black Death, zombies who are stunned by Shakespeare, an alien invasion at a forced conversion therapy center) and tie it off with the requisite calculated twist. To fulfill that pattern, many of the protagonists display an unerring ability to commit murder or be murdered at the last minute. Sometimes, Eads’ (Lord Byron’s Prophecy, 2015, etc.) premise both carries the plot and allows for particularly apt descriptions to shine. Of those moments, “And the Raindrops—Its Tears” stands out. It follows a sinner in a dystopian civilization where none may look at the sky for fear of going insane upon sight of a sky demon. In other stories, the genres pile up into a terrifying heap. The most emblematic is certainly “Riveter,” in which Eva Braun falls in love with a poster of Rosie the Riveter and tries to bring her to life through some classic unethical sci-fi experiments in the Third Reich. For the stories where Eads sticks to character development and description, his writing sets a pleasing rhythm. But when he tries for metaphorical flourishes, they tend to be too on-the-nose: In “The Dreamist,” dream-projection technology has made skilled dreamers famous, and the narration can’t help itself but repeatedly point out that the story’s surreality makes it feel “like a dream.”
This unholy anthology can’t quite break free of its tropes, but it’s certainly something to look at.