Monday, February 2, 2009

"Voices" edited by Mark S. Deniz & Amanda Pillar

Format: Paperback, 180 pages
Publisher: Morrigan Books

In my whole life I have been in several hotel or motel rooms, but I have to admit that I never thought of the previous guests who passed through that particular room. And if the hotel building doesn’t have a historical importance I might pass over its history as well. The anthology edited by Mark S. Deniz and Amanda Pillar, “Voices”, propose such a foray, raising a question what if the new guest is affected by his room past.

“Voices” is structured in four sections, named “Illusions”, “By the Hand”, “Possessions” and “Epiphanies”, each one opened with a short story written by Robert Hood. And Robert Hood’s stories take the reader in a journey through time and building structure, beginning from the lobby to the 4th floor and with a 20 year gap between them, starting from 1928 up to 2008.

“Prologue” by Robert Hood – A married couple comes to the hotel, but their staying will suffer an unexpected twist in the lobby. This short story makes a good introduction for the collection, with an uncomfortable feeling created by Robert Hood. I really liked and enjoyed the dialogue between the husband and wife.

“Sanctuary” by Carole Johnstone – A woman who is on the run seeks a refugee in a hotel room only to find that the needed sanctuary might not be on her liking. The character of this story has difficulties in discerning the reality from the illusion and the reader will find at the end that he has to make his own choosing, how much illusion surrounded the character?

“The Mirror” by K.V. Taylor – Max and Luca are hiding in the hotel room. But Max has trouble sleeping and he hears a music coming from the mirror. This is the first published story of K.V. Taylor and although it might look a little unpolished it made me think of what an obsession could do to the human mind.

“His Only Company, the Walls” by Brad C. Hodson – A man tries to reach his ex-girlfriend at the phone while he waits her in a hotel room. But who is eventually coming might not be on his liking. The story is told through the phone messages left by the character and I really liked how he suffers changes with each call, I almost see his degradation. This is one of my favorite stories from this collection.

“Remainders: 1948” by Robert Hood – Marcus Bryant, a famous explorer and hunter, is desperately trying to find finances for a new expedition to Borneo. But his expedition comes sooner than he thinks. A paranormal story which involves the power of illusion.

“Paris” by Todd C. Edwards – Celine collapses on her room floor after consuming an overdose of alcohol and medicines. Her hope for help lies in her boyfriend, Marcel, but she will be taken by surprise. An interesting story which deals with the human reactions when facing panicked situations.

“Just Us” by Pete Kempshall – Alex Gallagher investigates a murder scene in a hotel room, the criminal being his former chief. This is another story centered on the human nature, about manipulation and ambition. And for a person the things happening in the next room might remain a mystery as much as the thoughts of the person next to him.

“A Picture of Death” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings – The police is investigating a case of hanging. It is a supernatural story, with an example of how different can the things be seen sometimes. I felt on some places that the author is forcing the terror on some of its characters and that is trying a little too much to point the reader to a terrifying situation.

“Remainders: 1968” by Robert Hood – Sarah is looking for her room, but will find a horrifying scene on her floor. This story mixes the horror of a real situation and a supernatural situation.

“Constance Craving” by Gary McMahon – Thomas Usher, a man able to see ghosts, is asked to help Reverend Alex Potter and the parents of a girl who believes that she is a vampire by talking to her. I really liked this story, because it has an interesting dialogue, which sets the protagonist in a conflictual state and also I could see his doubts and fears. I liked a lot too that the story is ambiguous and the author doesn’t point an obvious truth leaving much in the end on the reader’s imagination as well.

“Bedbugs” by Martin Livings – Allison will discover in a strange way the destiny of one of her room’s previous guest. It is an interesting story, with two physical abuses that will superpose in a new disturbing image.

“Faking It” by Siobhan Byford – Celeste and Paul are two supposed mediums who make money from naïve clients. Only this time the money will be harder earned than before. Another supernatural story, made interesting by the way the author only hints the danger threatening the supposed medium.

“Remainders: 1988” by Robert Hood – Gowing leaves his home, unhappy with his wife and son. The story deals with surpassed memories that have a way of coming back unexpected.

“Sentinel” by Sonia Marcon – An Eastern European family visiting the country will find through their young daughter that the next room holds a macabre truth. I have to admit that this story didn’t sit very well with me, because I failed to find the relevance in one character presence and an illogical gap that spoiled my read (I find hard to believe that a killer will leave his bag unattended in an opened door room).

“The Suicide Room” by Paul Kane – Richard Gray comes to the hotel because he believes that this is a perfect place for killing himself. Unfortunately this is another story I didn’t enjoy. First the story looks like a huge list of suicide methods and second the end of the story sounded like a punishment taken from Dante’s “Purgatory” and set in a hotel room.

“The Man Who Wasn’t There” by Rodney J. Smith – A man tired of his job and the long journeys that it necessitates wonders what would be like if he had left his life behind. The story raises an interesting question, but the answer offered can’t be that simple.

“Remainders: 2008” by Robert Hood – Tara comes to the hotel drawn by a distant relative who has his destiny bound to the hotel. This story shows that not only humans can have a terrifying destiny, but a building can have one as well.

“Epilogue” by Robert Hood – It is the outcome of the collection imaginative hotel. It is the shortest story of the anthology that adds one more horror to the building.

Although I would have liked some of the stories to be longer, “Voices” is a nice collection of horror stories that deals more with the supernatural and paranormal aspects of the genre and less or almost not at all with the gory and macabre part. Also the anthology edited by Mark S. Deniz and Amanda Pillar presents new or established authors of the genre and I personally discovered through “Voices” a few names that stirred my interest.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very detailed and thoughtful review of Voices!

I look forward to more reviews of our books in the future and I am very pleased that there are sites such as yours on the web.

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much, Mark, you are very kind :) And keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I second Mark's comments!

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much, Amanda :)

Anonymous said...

Dark Wolf, really enjoyed the way you broke down this anthology. Its nice to see you touch on every shorty short in the collection.

So many times reviewers will just say "These were my favorite stories, these were okay, these were not good" without giving much information.

Like I said before it was nice to get a taste of each story even if it was just small taste. I think I'm going to start breaking short story collections down this way for review as well.

Thanks very much for this review, very nice job.

Cate Gardner said...

Excellent review. Gary McMahon's story was my favourite.

Mihai A. said...

Harrison, thank you very much :)
I believe that this is the proper way to review an anthology, because although they follow a general line each author contributes to it on its own. This time I treated some stories only briefly because they are quite short and telling to much about them it would have end up in spoiling the read.

Thank you very much, Catherine :)
That one was my favorite as well and I understood that Thomas Usher, the main character, appears in other author's stories as well. I would certainly like to read them too ;)

Barbara Martin said...

Mihai, this was a wonderful review and I'm putting this book onto my TBR list. I agree with the previous commenters about providing small details about each of the short stories within. That was certainly a deciding factor in wanting to get this book.

Mihai A. said...

Barbara, thank you very much, you are very kind as always :D
I hope you'll enjoy this book.