There are few collections that I begin with my rating of five Amazon stars and a highly recommended note. This is an amazing collection of writing styles, Little Deaths: The Definitive Collection by John F. D. Taff shows off the author’s versatility. While all have something of a twist or weird quality, there is one horror story that will leave a reader laughing out loud. There is one that is emotional enough to bring tears. There is one in which the reader can join in with a feeling of vengeance deserved. There is one written in the slang-ridden language of today and one written in the style of Charles Dickens. Almost every story sent me to the dictionary at least once although looking back on the stories there were several times I had acted too quickly. Taff usually explained the term quite adequately in context. But that is me looking back.
Other than the stories, there are other great parts. The effusive introduction by Josh Malerman deserves a second read after finishing the twenty-four stories. Readers can compare their own impressions with that of an excellent Malerman introduction. In the Afterword, Taff gives us a small insight into a writer’s relations with the world of publishers. In Notes, we learn of the background to the stories. It is not good to read this first; it just will not make sense. Lastly, there are some blurbs from other offerings by Grey Press but I was not annoyed by these as I usually am. I learned of three other novels written by Taff which I will most definitely read. (Yeah, I could have done an Amazon search but I’ll take the offered gift).
I read every day and usually write one review per day. This collection took me three days to read. Some of the stories were so good they stopped me as I paused for reflection. The language is so good as to be a rich candy; don’t eat too much at one time. You don’t want to end up like The Mellified Man, a story of vengeance not served cold. Here are a few observations on several of the short stories. They are all superior but I don’t want to tell their stories; I just want to spark interest. Although the novel is available as a free read on Kindle Unlimited, I bought the novel for USD 3.99. I don’t want to return the book.
BOLTS Evoking imagery of Frankenstein, this tale also points out the pitfalls of hoarding.
DUST AT THE CENTER OF ALL THINGS Dr. Sanford wanted to take care of his daughter. She seemed to be thirsty a lot and he, a good father, would provide. What was the alternative?
CALENDAR GIRL Curiosity killed the …
BUT FOR A MOMENT…MOTIONLESS God announces a few limitations on omnipotence.
THE WATER BEARER Would you want a pond in your backyard? After this story, maybe not.
THE CLOSED EYE OF A DEAD WORLD What is the difference between a door and a window? This story will tell you.
SNAPBACK Don’t forget to write home often. But at least make the news believable.
THE PROJECTOR I have long been a fan of drive-in theaters. They never consumed me as much as they did the principals in this story.
THE MIRE OF HUMAN VEINS Lisa realizes her destiny lies with the family. She is willing to diet to fulfill their hopes for her.
THE SCENT William discovers his true self and begins to get rid of the artifices that limit his self-realization.
SHE UNMASKS HER BEAUTY TO THE MOON This story begins in 1754. I like the writing style exemplified by this “At this, White Antelope’s companions flicked at him a glance expressing great displeasure, though I knew not of what he spoke.” (Kindle Location 3081).
CHILD OF DIRT If you suspect your wife of infidelity, you might think she left you for a more attractive partner. This story attacks that general premise.
ORIFICE Fear the Tattoo.
HELPING HANDS After reading this, I will have to be careful when someone requests me to lend a hand. One of my favorite phrases is here “His coat opened like the panels of a religious triptych, fell to the floor, revealing a horror that will live inside my mind forever. For even the darkness—or the madness, which you can well attest—could not blot it out.” (Kindle Location 3938).
IN MEN, BLACK Reading this reminded me of the television series “Fringe.”
DARKNESS UPON THE VOID This is a horror story about how we confront our inner terrors.
SHARP EDGES A week in the life of a very organized man. He counts literally everything. Including his victims.
COLD CALLS Buddy was finally a very successful salesperson. But was customer satisfaction on his list of goals?
THE LACQUERED BOX The magic never dies.
HERE Hector always responded when I called him with “Here!” It seems only right that maybe it was my time to respond.
THE TONTINE If the undead: Vampires, werewolves, and mummies, are not afraid of death, what are they afraid of? The Count reflects on the answer to this question. This is a story with laugh-out-loud humor.
PLANTING ROBERT There are elements of weirdness or possibly horror, but this is an emotional “family” story.
BOX OF ROCKS This is a story with lots of implied horror. It is the story that requires the most reader engagement to provide a conclusion.