Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

BOOK INFO

Length: 210 Pages

Publisher: Wicked Run Books

Release Date: April 12, 2017

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Garden of Fiends opens with a pretty eye-opening introduction from Mark Matthews’, who put together this collection that details the horrors of addictions. There are numerous lines in this introduction that could some up this collection, but the one that stands out to me the most deals with the definition of horror itself. “Horror is just the volume of life turned up so high the reality breaks through the confines of normal everyday limits and explodes in a bloody mess.” That is a powerful and apt description of both what horror means and the stories that make up Garden of Fiends. What makes this introduction and collection as a whole stand apart – aside from the stellar writing found in the stories contained within – is that Matthews’ has seen these horrors first hand. Not only as someone who has battled addiction, but also through his work as a substance abuse therapist. He sees these horrors every day, up close and personal. I remember when I first heard about this project, which was when Matthews’ sent out the submission call. Just based on the premise alone, I was excited to read Garden of Fiends. A horror anthology that focuses on tales of addiction? I was hooked. Part of the reason was that it was a topic I could relate to. I may not have had to battle addiction directly, but it is something that has affected my family and something I have lived with for a large portion of my life. So did Garden of Fiends live up to the hype? You bet.

The first story is Kealan Patrick Burke’s “A Wicked Thirst”, a tale of a man who needs alcohol as a social lubricant, but quickly finds it consumes his life. Burke doesn’t waste any time hooking the reader as his story opens with a scene of the narrator drowning in a puddle with the only thought running through his mind is, “I am going to die“. The story quickly flashes back to a time when the narrator is on a date, before he ends up battling a nemesis that is determined to witness his demise. His addiction has robbed him of his smile, but he seems to accept it and the situation he finds himself in. Burke nails the extent of this man’s addiction through anecdotes and internal monologues that reveal the reason for his addiction and the ways it has impacted his life. While the mystery of who is attacking the narrator is creepy and ramps up the tension, this story shines due to the detail Burke gives to the narrator’s addiction and the things that it had cost him. This story details the loneliness and the depths addiction will bring you. Structurally, I liked how Burke alternates between scenes of the narrator recalling his date and fighting back against the person intent on breaking him until the story lines merge.

Jessica McHugh’s “The One in the Middle” is a tale that follows the life of Perry, a man who is addicted to atlys, a drug that is similar to heroin. Perry lives in an abandoned high school with other atlys users and is left only with the memories of a lost lover and the desire to score atlys, whatever the cost. This story differs a little from the others in that it takes place in a futuristic society, but the core of the story is the same and the horrors are all too real. Throughout “The One in the Middle”, readers experience the lengths people who have addictions will go to in order to try to satisfy the need that has taken over their bodies. I won’t get into it too much, but let’s just say most of the residents of the city who can’t afford atlys on their own resort to a practice known as “potsticking” to get their fix. It is something that will make your stomach churn, but is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the desperation people with addiction go through. McHugh’s contribution works well as a standalone story, but is taken from a novel called  The Green Kangaroos. After reading this story and being impressed by the rich characterization and extensive world-building, I need to grab a copy of that novel!

Max Booth III’s “Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will” follows a recovering heroin addict named Jeremy. He seems to have his life back on track, but quickly finds himself in a situation that fractures his mind and puts his sobriety in jeopardy. The less I say about this story the better because it really is one you need to read to believe and any type of summary I attempt to come up with will spoil the experience. I will say that it is likely to be a divisive story in this collection that readers will either love or hate, I don’t think there will be too much middle ground on this one. I love that Booth holds nothing back in this story and I am not ashamed to say this story made me cringe more than once. There are scenes in this story that seem like hallucinogenic nightmares and though they will make you squirm, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the page. This is the first time I have read Booth’s work but considering the dark, twisted images that will be seared into my brain for a long, long time, I have a feeling it won’t be my last!

While many of the stories in Garden of Fiends are longer, Johann Thorsson offers up a chilling flash fiction piece called “First, Bite Just a Finger”. It follows a woman named Julia, who is invited to a peculiar party where she ties something for the first time that quickly consumes her every thought. Not only does this flash fiction piece accurately portray what addiction is and the hold it takes on those who have faced it, the core of the story also represents what addiction can do to a person both physically and mentally.

“Last Call” by John F.D. Taff is the only story I was familiar with prior to reading Garden of Fiends and is one that stuck with me because it raises questions that I could relate to personally. This story follows a man named Ted, who is an alcoholic that has been through many AA groups, but can’t seem to shake the addiction that has taken over his life. However, at one particular meeting, right when Ted thinks he may have to move on yet again, his sponsor offers him a way out. It is a last-ditch effort from someone who truly cares about Ted, but he offers him up a warning – this is your last chance. This is an entertaining story with a twist that I truly didn’t see coming until it was too late. Even when you figure out where Taff is leading you, the ending still leaves a lasting emotional impact. Taff is one of my favorite writers and I never fail to be impressed with his mastery of the short story format.

“Torment of the Fallen” by Glen Krisch is an entertaining and chilling story that follows Maggie, a girl who has been on the run for most of her life due to her unique gift. She has no real connections in the real world, but finds solace in the persona she has created online. It is through her online network that she finds information about her estranged father, tied to a story about paranormal phenomena. She leaves in search of answers, but what she uncovers is something she never could have prepared to face. I loved this story and my only real complaint is that I wish there was more!

Mark Matthews’ “Garden of Fiends” is an intriguing story that follows the life of Tara Snyder and her family. Matthews story has a gritty, realistic feel and not only offers the perspective of Tara and her struggles with addiction, but the perspective of her father who would do anything to save her. I loved this story and it really brings home the pain that addiction causes to anyone unlucky enough to be snared in its path. I also enjoyed the surprise Matthews’ had in store for those who were already fans of his work. I remember the first time I read Matthews’ work and I knew I was going to be a fan for life. He adds a level of realism to his work that amplifies the horrors that he unleashes because you feel like they could happen to you, even if aspects of the story defy explanation. If you have yet to experience Matthews’ brand of fiction, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Lily’s Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy. You won’t be disappointed.

The collection wraps up with Jack Ketchum’s “Returns”. The narrator witnesses his wife Jill as her life begins spiraling out of control due to her drinking and she begins neglecting every aspect of their life, including caring for their cat Zoey. Unfortunately for him, he is powerless to stop her despite his best efforts. “Returns” may be a little short, but it’s a powerful story that is sure to tug on your heartstrings.

Addiction has impacted the lives of so many people, and I think this collection will really resonate with readers. I loved the variety of stories and there is something for every horror fan whether your tastes run more toward the extreme or the subtle end of the spectrum. A brilliant and original concept, Garden of Fiends captures the struggles of addiction and the horrors they inflict on those affected by it. Yes, it is dark and visceral, but with moments of hope throughout that make this a memorable collection of stories. Matthews’ has put together something truly special with Garden of Fiends, and there is no doubt in my mind that this will end up as one of my favorite collections of the year.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Wicked Run Press /Mark Matthews Official Website

Purchase Garden of Fiends: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

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