TINY TERRORS VOLUME 2

Reviewed by Jim Steel

Struggling to give up smoking? Need something that fills the physical loss while at the same time keeping your mind off nicotine withdrawal symptoms? You need a cigarette packet-sized book of horror stories! You need Tiny Terrors 2!

I'm exaggerating a bit as the anthology is slightly larger than that, but it is the most conveniently pocket-sized book that I've run across for a long time. It's edited anonymously but, given that Hadesgate publishes it, it is a safe bet that Garry Charles is the man behind it. There is a foreword by G. George Taylor who seems surprised to have been asked to provide it as he is only at the start of his career, but then Tiny Terrors is designed to launch new(ish) writers.

First up is a brutal story by Helen Taylor. Executive Game is the graphic story of the hunting of Julia. She is a new member of staff at Tom's company, and one of Tom's customers, Randall, pays him very well to be able rape and murder a woman every now and again. The money on offer outweighs Tom's natural distaste, and Randall has a team of cleaners who dispose of the after-hours mess. The viewpoint tends to wander a bit, and there are only a limited number of outcomes that are possible with this sort of plot, but it is effective and does keep the reader guessing up until the end. Is the denouement possible? The characters seem to think so, and that is what matters.

Fran Friel's Bad Music is much more light-heated in tone, and the only story in the anthology not to be set in the modern workplace. Having said that, Leon Loozer is a freelance composer so, in a manner of speaking, much of the story is set at his workplace. Loozer, as his name implies, is a terrible musician. So much so, in fact, that music rebels in pain and sets out to frustrate Loozer's ambitions over the course of his life.

Edward Morris's Courtesy Call is set in a call centre. The staff members are suffering under the conditions and the management are literally monstrous in this set-up. Rebellion is afoot. Morris's polished prose and deftness of touch make this the best story in the anthology.

Escape From Within has Darrell Joyce's bank manager attempting to dispose of a co-worker who has discovered that he is embezzling money. The manager, Ingle, had earlier been in a car accident where he discovered that he possessed extrasensory abilities, such as the ability to travel outside his own body. He has researched this and honed his abilities and, despite the suspicion that Joyce is dumping his own research into the story at times, it makes for an interesting story.

The final story is truly nightmarish. In Dominic McDonagh's Caitlin's Career Change, the heroine, desperate for work, applies to Cronos Industries and doesn't pay much attention to her employment contract. Too late does she realise what her work entails. There are cannibals in this world who enjoy the taste of young flesh, and Caitlin finds herself working at a factory farm where surgically altered women are kept to produce babies for this market. When one of her charges chokes to death, Caitlin finds that she is expected to replace her. After the surgery, she finds that, while far from being the same person as she was before, she is not quite as lobotomised as she might have been. However, there is another staff member who has an agenda concerning her. This is a grotesque work of horror that will stay with the reader for a long time.

This is an enjoyable little collection. There's a quote from Dean Koontz on the cover but, given that I'm admittedly not the greatest Koontz fan in the world, I'd take this collection over one of his books any day. There are no contributors' notes, but their websites are listed at the start. The cover is by Ben Baldwin, and there are small illustrations scattered throughout, with three of the four artists, David Miles, Andrew Gilmore and John Bennett, producing fine work that complements the stories wonderfully. Paul Cox's artwork isn't bad, exactly, but looks like a first draft and somewhat rushed.

Tiny Terrors Volume 2, edited anonymously. Paperback, 127pp, £4.99. Available from Hadesgate Publications, PO Box 167, Shelby, North Yorkshire YO8 4WP (check website for ordering options).

Website: - www.hadesgate.co.uk


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