STLGzine Reviews, Issue 2

“Childhood” by David Dunwoody

Clowns. Most people hate them. You can’t help but think of John Wayne Gacy dressed for a party with murder on his mind. In his short story, “Childhood”, David Dunwoody taps into that hate and fear by turning it contagious, the fear spreading from the main character as he moves from town to town. From the moment he met the scowling clown with the smile painted on at the traveling circus show until he awakes out of a nightmare as an adult, we find the main character is haunted by this singular event in his past. So haunted, he feels compelled to share it as he constructs elaborate stories about abandoned houses where the clown ran away with a kidnapped boy. Like the circus where it began, the story travels with the main character to new towns and new abandoned houses until it tracks him down in his own house. At this point, Dunwoody really brings his narrative home.

I could hear the main character’s unnamed voice in my head, like a throwback to the movie Stand By Me or Radio Flyer, an adult trapped in the memories of his childhood. There’s something surreal and chilling about that kind of voice. As an adult they are a nameless entity, disembodied, and only finding life as a kid. Unlike those two movies I mentioned, Dunwoody ties his story into the present life of the narrator with disturbing consequences that have the potential to bring the haunted man’s nightmares into reality for a new generation. A must-read for coulrophobics (people who fear clowns) because this one will keep you awake at night.

– reviewed by Brandon Layng  

“By the Sea, By the Sea” by Caroline Totten

“By the Sea, By the Sea” is a disquieting tale of a family who live on the beach in a town called Innsmouth. Although the family’s life revolves around the sea and the creatures in it, the daughter is afraid of the water. But life is good until her parents give birth to a strange baby girl.

This short story packs quite a punch and weaves a feeling of dread and discomfort throughout. “By the Sea, By the Sea” is very well-written with an ending that is bittersweet. I enjoyed this story very much and highly recommend it.

– reviewed by Sheri White

“In The Mirror” by Draven Ames

Dystopia is a term for certain pieces of fiction that take a rather sad look at the future, a term which this reviewer feels is rather over-used these days. Whether or not you can say Draven Ames’ “In The Mirror” is dystopian – as the author describes it – can be debated. The reason for that is the main character, Mary.

In the opening paragraphs, Ames sets the scene for the world in which Mary lives; a place with an excellent education system, technology that is advanced in some areas, relatively disease free but fraught with social unrest and fear. We soon find out the reason for this is the majority of people no longer conceive children naturally. In Ames’ future the responsible citizen has clone babies through a process of genetic manipulation and in vitro fertilization. Natural, non-cloned children are prized commodities, often kidnaped, raped or kept in breeding cages. Inspired by one such case of rape that resulted in the death of the victim, Mary has established a help-line students can phone into. At first it seems Mary is a typical over-achieving teen just looking for extra credits, until she receives a real call from a student in distress, which tests her own views of her world and the laws she’s asked to live by.

Through Mary’s conversation with Nomi (the young girl in distress) the reader gets the impression that this world is not quite the dystopia it would initially seem to be. Not if the general goodness in Mary’s cloned heart is any indication of the compassion the people of this world are capable of. “In The Mirror” is worth a read for the chance to be a part of Mary’s coming-of-age experience in a dismal world.

– reviewed by Brandon Layng

“Real People Slash” by Nick Mamatas, sample from the collection “You Might Sleep…”  &

Have you ever felt like your life direction was dictated by Lovecraftian god-like beings from a planet beyond Pluto? If you have then you’ll find a friend in Nick Mamatas. “Real People Slash” begins a bit fuzzy but in no time he clears things up. I also believe a certain amount of the initial fuzziness is due to the atmosphere of a group of students gathered together to discuss a quasi-socialist movement and the riot that follows. Once that event settles the story doesn’t, kicking it into high gear toward a horrifying realization made by the main character.

Lovecraft fans will be heavily rewarded as the story moves along. I personally found the main character’s paranoia endearing at times, if a bit self-centered. I suspect this was Mamatas intention. Make you like the guy enough to identify with him, maybe want to help him, only to realize yourself that he wouldn’t trust you not to be some mindless alien creature trying to harvest his brain.

While Lovecraft isn’t my cup o’ tea, I certainly was entertained watching this guy running in circles to get away from the god-like horror holding the puppet strings.

– reviewed by Brandon Layng

“Mashed” by Fran Friel

I hated mashed potatoes as a kid, like putting mushy, bleached dirt in my mouth. My parents made me eat them anyway, ignoring as I gagged on them because they were good for me. Fran Friel’s “Mashed” had me thinking maybe I wasn’t so wrong about those nasty spuds. They didn’t like me either.

A kid’s birthday dinner and a mother (who’s therapy has told her all of her fears have been irrational) agrees to overcome her psychological scarring to give him what he wants – mashed potatoes – because the teasing is too much to bear. Friel gives the reader a glance at how a harmless prank can awaken nightmares. It’s a great read to say the least. Friel knows how to get you to relax and read while making you uneasy at the same time. I’m sure this story you’ll never look at those dirty little tubers without a hesitation of fear.

– reviewed by Brandon Layng



1 Response to REVIEWS #2

  1. Draven Ames says:


    Thank you so much for the review of my story, “In the Mirror.” Thank you for not giving away the twist at the end. If the future was not bleak enough to be considered dystopian, what category would you suggest? I appreciate the read and look forward to seeing more of your reviews. Great fiction this week.

    Draven Ames

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