Monday, November 15, 2010

In Sickness: Stories From A Very Dark Place, (Skullvines Press), by L. L. Soars & Laura Cooney

You know the drill, so say it with me... for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer and that diametric opposite of health with the oozing pus and blood-flecked phlegm. The part of the ritual designed to remind happy newlyweds that it isn't all puppies, flowers and making sweet, sweet love on an abandoned beach at sunset. That's what this anthology is about: love that is broken, splattered, gibbering and moaning lost and shattered dreams into the cold light of the moon. In other words, we're not in a happy place here.

For instance, look at Laura Cooney's insight into the self-destructive love of Rasputin, destined to end in bloodshed and rot, in “A Crown of Mushrooms” or "Number 808", an exploration of intertwined hearts and hate, bought and sold in cold, sterile rooms. The inimitable L.L. counters with "Second Chances", a man's desperate need to escape the bitter blue clay of his hometown, face down in a puddle of cheap whiskey, one foot nudging towards redemption and aimed firmly one away and a journey to "The No! Place", where a woman's mental and physical demons collide.

But it's their eponymously titled collaboration that really kicked the crap out of me. It's the slow dissolution of a once adoring relationship, through the steady erosion of minor annoyances and petty grievances. It's an honest and cruel, (mostly cruel due to its honesty), look at the thoughts we hold in that cripple ourselves and our relationships. The tiny bits we are fed build upon each other, stepping backwards in time to the elephantine root of it all as the players slouch on to the inevitable end.

Tom Piccirilli once described Noir as someone driving toward a cliff and accidentally slamming on the gas instead of the breaks, but what should we call a story about the people who aimed for it in the first place? Whatever that may be, I've found a beauty here.

Granted, some stories don't seem to fit the theme ("Head Games", brain-eating monkeys and all, is a great example), but I may very well be shoe-horning one in where it wasn't intended. All told, "In Sickness" gives the angry, depressed nihilist romantics of the world an angle on love that Harlequin won't be bringing to your grocery store shelves any time soon. Too bad, as it could give a new image to go with the old clich├ęd bodice ripper…

Visit Buy it today.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

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