Reviewing the Pages: Defiled Earth and other tales

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Defiled Earth is a collection of dark tales for fans of Stephen King and Clive Barker. The title story tracks the grim acts of a small-time Newcastle thug and his efforts to bury bodies resulting from his executions. Special Pupil introduces Ken, not exactly your average student. But events move off the scale when the voice in his head tells him to exact vengeance on a community that despises him. In The wardrobe, a prospective political candidate is selected by his local party to run for office. Would party members be so keen to vote for him if they knew about the skeleton in his closet?
The fourth story is a tale of possession, but not by your standard run-of-the-mill demon, however. Deirdre has a special talent, and her skin art is a conduit to a living hell. Head tracks the final thirty minutes of a condemned man. He is sentenced to death by guillotine for performing illegal genetic experiments. But he has one last experiment to perform before he says goodbuy to those watching.
Lusus naturae is the longest story in the book. It’s Beauty and the beast in reverse. An aristocrat purchases a monster, never realising that his obsession with her leads him on a path to ruin.
Finally, Prophecy and pork chops lands the reader in Death Valley, where four spectral individuals wait to meet the Devil’s right hand man. Hex is his name, and he doesn’t tolerate failure when trying to orchestrate the end of the world.
This is Tom G.H. Adams’ debut, but it’s only the start of a chain of tales to issue from his dark pen.

Middle of the road for me, for there were some stories in this collection that are hits, and some of them are misses. Some of these stories were a little wonky, but only because I’m not fully versed in the region in which a lot of the stories take place. While the more native slang and dialect can be a put off to a lot of readers, it doesn’t take away from the overall tale. There are some tales that I would love to see expanded upon, and some of the tales could have been much shorter. If you enjoy short tales of horror, then this read is for you!

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Alright, this is my first short story collection to review on this blog, so I’m going to break down my thoughts on each of the stories, one by one.  Let’s dive right on in!

Starting off with “Defiled Earth”, this short story take the whole haunted burial ground idea and gives it life in a English moor.  I felt like the story could have been stronger, with some spots where there could have been more explanation.  But, the story is pretty good as it is, even if I personally didn’t find it all that terrifying.  Just my taste apparently.

“Special pupil” is next up in the batting order, and it serves a dual purpose as not only a very odd short story, but also to serve as a taste for Adams’ then-upcoming work.  I had so many questions, which, to the author’s credit, he addresses in the author’s note after the story ends.  Which makes me actually want to pick up Mycophoria.  I do kinda want to know what the goop coming out of our character’s ears is made out of, and what about this goop makes characters go homicidal?

“The wardrobe” makes this hit home in a way.  Sure, this is focused on the 2015 elections in Britain, it could very well be applied to a certain recent event that a lot of people are up in arms about (which some people need to grow up, but that’s a topic I’m not going to touch…EVER).  The story itself left me a little confused at times, but that may be due to my lack of familiarity with the source material.  That, or finishing this read at 1:30 or so in the morning on my lunch break while working a graveyard shift may have done something to my enjoyment of this read.

“Possession at 3,000 perforations a minute” is a lovely little tale that I wish would have much, much more detail into it.  I want to know more about where the possessions started, if the ink that our tattoo artist used was more in fact, her blood.  That, and so much more.

“Head” is a thought-experiment that all creative-brain types that dabble in science fiction thinks about.  The whole idea of subconsciousness and what the brain thinks about after death is fascinating, and until science evolves like it has here, we may never know just how much one can do before the brain finally hits the light switch as it goes out the door for the last time.

Lusus naturae” is probably the least favorite of mine out of the entire collection.  It just drug on and on.  And there were just so many things about the plot that, at least to me, made it unreadable.  Seriously? We know the only reason why he bought the monster is to get his rocks off (since she appears as a beautiful woman to those men(?) who see her), but what I don’t get is her whole character trait is ignored for the entire second half of the story.  I think it would have been a much better tale if the author went in that direction instead of going where he did.

“Prophecies and pork chops” ends out the book, and it’s a nice little story that gives us a different take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and their bossman.  I kinda want to know about these characters a bit more.  Then again, I was spoiled by Good Omens and the portrayal of the Horsemen there.  But, it’s  a fun little read.

Overall, if you like horror, in all of its shapes and forms, then you should check this out.  Some of the stories or subject matter may not be to your liking, but you will find something that you’ll like, and maybe will lead you to checking out other horror in short form.

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