"Decayed Etchings" Book Review
Written by Brandon Ford
2011, 236 pages, Fiction
Released on July 4th, 2011
Many people say variety is the spice of life. In Brandon Ford's Decayed Etchings, the short fiction is a celebration of variety. While darkness is the underlying element of cohesion that brings the story collection together, Ford throws in everything from gore and depression to noir humor and absolute weirdness. The result of all this variety is a very engaging and a truly entertaining collection of short horror that contains something for everyone.
The first tale, "Goodbye, Elsie", serves as a great introduction to the collection and might also be considered an excellent starting piece for those who are not familiar with Ford's work. The narrative follows an angry, vindictive husband who's basically destroying everything his wife left behind when she left. He comes across a rat while on his rampage and the rodent suffers a very painful demise, but karma strikes back at the husband with a vengeance.
The next two stories, "The Suitor" and "Prognosis Negative", progress into even darker territory and help Decayed Etchings hook its talons into the reader. The first is a strange combination of sexy and sad that works perfectly well. The second is about a pregnant woman who's kidnapped by a man who thinks she's responsible for his horrible disease even though the only thing she did was take his blood. The narrative is tense and the woman's anguish is described in rich detail, making it a tale that stays with the reader after the last word.
I generally try to steer clear of comparisons, but in the case of Decayed Etchings, comparing Ford to a couple of writers might be the perfect way to explain just how richly diverse his fiction is. For example, "Band of Gold", undeniably one of the best stories in a collection with no throwaways, immediately brings to mind the stomach churning gore and unflinching honesty of Edward Lee. In the story, a man freaks out about losing his wedding ring inside a prostitute. I won't give you the tastiest details, but if you're familiar with Lee's work, you know what's coming. In contrast, "Cat Call", a narrative in which a police officer rescues a cat stuck in a tree, is a much darker and funnier version of what someone like David Sedaris might write if he decided to shed some animal blood. You would never expect to get Sedaris and Lee in the same anthology, but that's exactly what Ford brings to the table.
On top of those mentioned above, there are a handful of tales that help push the book into must-read territory for horror fans:
- Trippity-Do-Da is bizarro horror that's part bad acid trip, part dream, and part omen.
- "I'm Up Here" is a amusing read wrapped in a healthy dose of bodily monstrosity, teeth and death.
- "Bookends" is every writer's dream and worse nightmare all wrapped into a enjoyable story about a road trip gone horribly wrong.
- "My Sacred Slumber" brings together a bit of physical violence with a lot of blood, a beheading, three murders and the hell a little girl has to go through while a stranger puts his paws on her in the middle of the night.
- "Uninvited" is an absolute must-read for anyone who's heard a voice in their home when they thought they were alone.
- Last but not least, "A Walk in the Park" is a creepy tale about a man who seems to be having problems with sleepwalking and ends up waking to one of the most horrible realities imaginable.
Ford makes you cringe as a man eviscerates a woman with his own hands, but he's also smart enough to also make sure he scars you emotionally as well. If anything can be said to be exactly the same in all the stories, it's the fact that the author has a profound understanding of the plurality of shades of fear there are. Between the gore, the tense situations presented, the plethora of sadists and squirming victims, the healthy dose of sex, the onslaught of violent finales and the straight, pull-no-punches kind of prose, Decayed Etchings is a varied, gruesome and very entertaining compilation that deserves to be read.