Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Strings by Darren Gallagher, short story collection - Book Review

Strings by Darren Gallagher is a collection of 33 mostly scary short stories spanning different eras, worlds, themes and places. The stories encompass a variety of topics ranging from vampires and werewolves to swarms of spiders, to newly-made up creatures to cowboys even.

‘Ruby Red Soldiers’ is a ten-star opening to the Strings collection. It is highly creative with a new take on the supernatural. I’m doing an effort not to spoil this one but suffice to say I loved every bit of it. Also, the fact that I don’t think I have read – or seen – any scary stories that take place during the day. It’s always the dark and dead of night, but not Gallagher, and not this story. 
‘A Hiker’s Life’ is an excellent and creative masterpiece about the things that go bump in the morning! I love how Gallagher had me fooled throughout this entire piece.
I loved the five-star piece called ‘The Wishing Well’, which was not scary at first but the ending was the scariest part. In a ’A Bag Full of Ashes’ who could have though Christmas would be scary? It’s new, suspenseful, different and interesting. It also has this sort of uniting in death theme.
‘Renovation’ is one of the stories that do not include the supernatural element but that is scarier than many other-worldly stories. I loved the image “the kitchen was an untapped pit of darkness”. This story will give every reader the notion of thinking several times and looking into suspicious investments. A ten-star piece!
‘Kumari’ is a short story hit the spot for me. It is certainly one of my favourites in the Strings collection. There is no magic involved, just a little girl with a warrior within against a male-dominated society. I did not feel it was a scary story but certainly a ten-star masterpiece!
‘Fighting the Curse’ is a dark and interesting story though a bit bloody and gruesome but nonetheless different and enjoyable.
In ‘A Secret in Time’ I felt that there was something wrong with the third person narrations of this story, like it’s too passive or too slow. Overall, the storyline is good and though the Hiker’s transformation is a big vague, the story is interesting and would be great to build up a full-length novella or novel on it. I enjoyed the fight and the constant power shift as well as the sort of beauty and the beast reversal.

Moving on to a ‘New Life, New World, New Beginnings’, which represents a  new take on the sewer cliché as one character says “You mean all a criminal has to do to escape is go into the sewers?” and surprisingly the answer is “Yes!” Which is rather comical. This story is another Gallagher masterpiece that is highly creative with more experimentation on Lycans rather than werewolves.

I loved ‘Hustled’, which I felt could be metaphoric for the burdens we bear and encumber ourselves with in life. The story moves at a fairly slow pace at first but for good reason then the speed picks up with the turn of events and the speed that comes with such a shift is very nicely done. I liked Sebil’s cunning.

In ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ I loved the bit when one character asks “Why?” and the reply was “Because I want to and because I can”.

‘Akuya’ is one of the top masterpieces in the collection. I loved every bit of it, particularly how it is not about good and evil or even their notions. A must read! It is followed by ‘Flight of a Dead Man’, an action-packed story that seems to be inspired by the theme of The Transporter movies. I loved Gallagher’s use of this speech in this piece. A must read ten-star story!
Another masterpiece is the story of ‘Sinsu’, which I truly enjoyed, especially how it unfolded, how taunting bad dreams could be and I believe many can relate to having a bad day after a nightmare. The ending was perfect.
‘Too Little, Too Late’ is a heart-breaking story that is not scary and has no place in this collection in my personal opinion. It is well written but I did not like the content.
I wish I could mention and comment on all but that will make my review far longer than it already is. However, I will briefly mention a few more titles that I enjoyed: ‘Down by the River’, ‘Little Haven’, ‘Jars of Hearts’, ‘A Murder of Crows’, ‘Blood Ties’, ‘A Christmas Tree Is More than Just an Object’, and ‘Frozen Out’.
Overall Gallagher uses many children in his stories to reinforce the scary element, added to using familiar ideas like Christmas trees and contemplating at the lake and twisting the events to create something brand new. This adds a lot to his works, most of which are highly enjoyable.
There were a few stories that were er.. ok for me, but only one felt out place in this collection, hence a 4.5-star rating is in order. I realize it is almost impossible to like every piece in a collection.

Note: I received a free copy of Strings from the author for an honest review and while this post was originally slated for 31st of October, 2014, stuff happened and both my reading and post were delayed.

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