Friday, September 10, 2010

The Monster Within Idea, (Apex Publications), edited by R. Thomas Riley

The Monster Within Idea is a horrific, heart-felt, and hopeful collection of short fiction that explores what lies within us all: the monster. Riley’s ability to toy with us psychologically affords the reader little protest by creating people--not characters--faced with relatable dilemmas and odds just as uncertain as the reality in which they exist. Each story in the collection is a real treat for the imagination and the diversity is sure to please. Standouts are:

Touching God”, two young brothers endure a life of pain from a father who enjoys abusing them. In hushed whispers, they contemplate escaping and going away. To where? It wouldn’t really matter. But James wonders when the abuse becomes more frequent, and his brother spends more time with his toy train-set in the basement. “It’s a secret” his brother promises him, and it’s a big one.

Twin Thieves”, Milton would do anything to have his wife back. Their marriage, at first wonderful, somehow took a turn for the worse. His mind is bent on what exactly went wrong as it rifles through memory after memory of bliss; longing to find that moment of understanding. Once discovering a way to augment this, Milton plays guinea-pig to the incessant dilemma of forgetting today in favor of what was and what could be.

Bubo”, Darrel walks into a bar looking for someone only spoken of in whispers: Bubo, with a problem only he can solve. Darrel has cancer and it is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens. Can the coldest of hearts pay a price even Darrel regrets? And once made, what happens to his cancer?

The Day Lufberry Won It All”, in a distant, dystopian future, Lufberry walks into a bar hoping to hustle someone for money at a game of Pool. To his surprise, this bar has his favorite vices of cigarettes and alcohol and best of all, gambling. When he takes a bet from a kid over a simple game of Pool, will he walk away with the kid’s other-worldly billiard balls? Or will he walk away with nothing...or something worse?

Just Decoration”, Toni solves, “people problems” and she’s damn good at it. She’s offered the job of killing, and publicly displaying the body of a prominent businessman. She accepts with enthusiasm. Toni breaks her professionalism in favor of personal gain. But will it make the kill as sweet?

The Lesser Evil”, Mark Fitzgerald is a politician in every evil sense that word has come to embody. The man has done bad things. Real bad things. Or has he? Jimmy, and his partner, “triple KKK” wonder as they take care of another one of Fitzgerald’s messes. Once the truth is known, a decision must be made that shakes a man to his core and changes his life forever.

Brittle Bones, Plastic Skin”, what if you could change history, time itself? Frank Macintosh wishes he could do so. He remembers his wife and their three-year-old son, Topher. He still hears the pitter-patter of his little feet around the house. Despite Frank’s loss, there is something about the house and the tree that shares its soil that haunts him. Not a day goes by that the tree taunts him, reminds him. Will it be too late for Frank when his research of the house’s history reveals a horror even his frayed mind can’t comprehend?

Riley truly takes the reader’s hand and holds it tight through moments where his skill to eviscerate our imagination intersect with the harsh reality of what, we, ourselves are capable of. Each story that comprises this collection hits every note on the emotional and creative scale in an eerie, relatable way. Written with a strong and enthralling voice, The Monster Within Idea gives us originality and imagination instead of clich├ęs--a collection that clearly stands apart from the rest.

Visit Buy it today.

Reviewed by Ben Eads.

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