This book review is provided as part of the Irredeemable blog tour, however, the standards and scrutiny applied to this review are no less than those given to any other work presented through the views of The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void, your blog for all things horror!
Short stories can be tricky for any writer. There is a fine art involved in providing enough detail and insight about characters to allow the audience to engage in the story without adding too much extra fat to what is supposed to be a short tale. Likewise, each story in an anthology of short stories must be filled with the right amount of substance to make them interesting while not going overboard with the details that an author is able to allow themselves when writing a novel. It is a matter of a delicate balance which must be achieved in order to craft the perfect short story. In his collection of short stories, Jason Sizemore has not only found that balance, but proven his mastery of the horrific.
Irredeemable consists of eighteen short stories. Eleven of these stories were previously published in various magazines and collections and seven of which were written as original works for this anthology. The earliest of these stories, Faithless, dates back to 2006 and the most recent previously published work, Samuel, was released in 2011. The topics could not be more different from each other, some relying heavily on aspects of science fiction and fantasy, while others paint pictures of modern day life. However, each of these stories have one vital thing in common, they will all linger in your mind and disturb your thoughts long after you have turned the last page.
“Flowing like mists and shadows through the Appalachian Mountains come 18 tales from the mind of Jason Sizemore. Weaving together elements of southern gothic, science fiction, fantasy, horror, the supernatural, and much more, this diverse collection of short stories brings you an array of characters who must face accountability, responsibility, and, more ominously, retribution.
Whether it is Jack Taylor readying for a macabre, terrifying night in The Sleeping Quartet, the Wayne brothers and mischief gone badly awry in Pranks, the title character in The Dead and Metty Crawford , or the church congregation and their welcoming of a special visitor in Yellow Warblers, Irredeemable introduces you to a range of ordinary people who come face to face with extraordinary situations.
Whether the undead, aliens, ghosts, or killers of the yakuza, dangers of all kinds lurk within the darkness for those who dare tread upon its ground. Hop aboard and settle in, Irredeemable will take you on an unforgettable ride along a dark speculative fiction road.”
As with any collection of stories, some are going to leave a better impression on some readers than others. While there were a couple of the stories where I found myself having to re-read sections in order to really understand what was going on, those were in the minority for me. For the most part, I found myself not wanting to put the book down until each story was done and even then was eager to pick it back up as soon as possible. The pacing on the stories was exceptional. With only a couple of exceptions, I felt completely immersed into the stories as I read and found myself rooting for someone or something.
You read that correctly. I said, I was rooting for someone or something. The title of the book, Irredeemable, is an extremely fitting one. Most of the characters are guilty of transgressions going into the story. Some are larger than others, but all are flawed in very real and human ways. In the cases of some of the more vile characters, you actually find yourself rooting for what they are up against so that you can witness their just dues being served to them. While I would not say that all of the characters truly are “irredeemable,” all seal their own fates in one way or another. That may be Sizemore’s greatest strength as a storyteller, in that he understands that sometimes it is okay for us to want to witness the suffering of the main character, not because we are sadomasochists, but because they simply deserve to suffer. For me, however, the greatest draw of Sizemore’s work as a short story writer is his masterful grasp of not only what to show us, but what to hold back.
If I were to name the greatest horror writer to ever live, I would say it was H.P. Lovecraft. One of Lovecraft’s greatest strengths was knowing when to reveal the gruesome detail and when to let our imagination fill in the blanks and create the terrors that only we could envision. In doing so, he avoided the common pitfall of the horror genre, what is presented is never as terrifying as what we can imagine ourselves if led in the right direction with the right seeds planted along the way. Why am I deviating from my evaluation of Jason Sizemore’s work to talk about a long dead horror writer you ask? The reason for this is the Sizemore demonstrates that same talent as the great Lovecraft. His stories never fail to end on the right note and at the right point in the tension. He leads us down his dark and twisted path, planting the seeds of disgust, despair, and deprivation along the way. Just when we reach the moment where we will leave saying that it wasn’t as bad as we would have imagined it, Sizemore drops the curtain and allows our own imaginations to fill in the gap. In this manner, much like in the work of Lovecraft, Sizemore ensures that the story lingers with us long after we have finished reading. He plants the seeds of horror and we continue to water them.
So do Sizemore’s tales of horror rage throughout the night or do they fall into the soulless void of unfulfilled horror? Here, Ragers, is your Rage Circus Breakdown.
Story Concept - 5/5
Story Execution - 5/5
Story Flow - 4/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) – 4.5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) - 5/5
Overall – 4.8/5 – While anthologies are particularly hard to rate due to the sometimes vast variation in quality between stories, Sizemore has provided us with eighteen tales of terror that do not fail to make us squirm. Check it out for yourself and see what seeds are planted and what terrors they can grow into!
About the author: Jason Sizemore is a writer and editor who lives in Lexington, KY. He owns Apex Publications, an SF, fantasy, and horror small press, and has twice been nominated for the Hugo Award for his editing work on Apex Magazine. Stay current with his latest news and ramblings via his Twitter feed handle @apexjason. You can also follow Jason on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.sizemore1.
You can experience the lingering unease yourself by purchasing Irredeemable via:
Print Version - http://www.amazon.com/Irredeemable-Jason-Sizemore/dp/1937929590
Please note that the book/eBook being reviewed was provided for an honest review, and that no compensation was provided.