Reviewed by: JA Gill
Genre: Horror/Short Story
Approximate word count: 45-50,000
Availability Kindle: YES Nook: YES Paper: NO
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Author: Robin Morris’s latest novel, Mama, is available as an ebook.
14 tales of horror and weirdness: mortality is vanity, you can run but can’t hide from your inner demons, witchcraft in the suburbs, one person’s efforts to create a ghost town, Cthulhu reborn, and many more.
A great majority of Robin Morris’s short stories in Halloween Sky are little self-contained packets of dread and dark novelty, along with a few grammatical terrors. The former makes her a writer whose work is worth following. However, the punctuation and spelling mistakes, obvious and sporadic, subtract from the reading experience.
Like other modern horror, Halloween Sky processes the familiar and wholesome, Christmas carols, circus acts, and sleepy neighborhoods, into the threatening and alien. As Morris demonstrates throughout her collection, this does not imply that the format is yet incapable of churning out strange and original fiction.
Loneliness, as both a plight to overcome and a fact of life to endure, runs through a few of the works in the collection, as does the singular observation of fat people—never main characters, always the “other.” It remains a peculiarity because, otherwise, character description in Halloween Sky is noticeably spare. Starving the reader of physical referents has an alienating effect, Kafka’s The Burrow is an extreme example, and when stretched across multiple stories erodes interest in the fate of the characters when things go awry, as they tend to do in horror stories.
At the end of each tale is a rationale or answer to the presumed question of inspiration. Why writers do this remains a mystery: of course readers want to know, for example, why more zombies at this point in the zeitgeist…that is until we’re awarded with a mundane explanation.
As for type, the stories in Halloween Sky range from palpable and campy to hallucinatory flights of fancy, even black humor. There are a few gems as well, such as the improbably original post-apocalyptic tale of two sisters, the Stephen King-esque piece of haunting childhood experience, and a particularly well-crafted story involving a young woman in a diner with a to-do list.
Moderate spelling and punctuation errors
Rating: *** Three stars