Sunday, March 28, 2010
Forever & Father and Son
One of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made is the Dark Voices series from Borderlands Press. It’s a very nice concept, in which you get an attractive chapbook containing one or more of an author’s stories, and included in the package is an audio disc of the author reading the material from the chapbook, with background music and some sound effects. Not every author is a good reader, but those who are seem better equipped than anyone to bring out the emotional resonance in their work. Earlier, I reviewed the classic story The Night They Missed the Horror Show by Joe R. Lansdale, and this time, a double feature of Jack Ketchum’s stories, Forever and Father and Son.
If you are familiar with classic Ketchum work such as The Girl Next Door, you know he is known for his ability to look without flinching at the everyday horrors that threaten us. At times, he does such a good job, it’s difficult to read the story. Few authors can get under your skin like Jack Ketchum, and he demonstrates this in the first story, Forever.
Forever is the story of a good marriage coming to a tragic close. The protagonists have been married for a long and happy time, and now, in their mid-forties, must cope with the wife’s steadily worsening bone cancer. The story follows the steady deterioration of her condition and the death of her husband’s hope. It is all too real, and struck uncomfortably home. After all, I’m probably not going to be menaced in real life by a vampire or a werewolf, but cancer can strike my family or yours. It made me face what I would go through if this happened to my wife, and how lost I’d be. The ending is also a genuine “Oh My God” moment at the end which caught me by complete surprise.
The second story was Father and Son, which was much shorter, and much lighter in tone, despite more grisly subject matter. It is the story of, not surprisingly, a father and son living together after the death of their wives. The elderly, frail father is trapped when his 300-pound son collapses and dies, blocking the door of the bathroom with the father behind it. Although it is definitely horror, there is a somewhat lighter tone to it.
Forever & Father and Son, along with the rest of the Dark Voices series, is highly recommended. You can buy it directly from Borderlands.