It’s difficult to read a friend’s work. There is an inherent bias at play, and in some sense (as long as this is a true FRIEND and not some FRIENEMY or acquaintance who you happen to have some common hobbies with) you are rooting for their work to be the best that it could be. This is far more than just grabbing a work by an author you admire and respect and enjoy, but there’s also a sense of engaging with a part of your friend that isn’t always the loudest, isn’t always the part that’s openly shared. Throughout the experience of reading a friend’s book, there is also the passive sense of their voice chatting with you as you progress. Not their actual voice mind you, but instead the best approximation of the person you know them to be, the side they show to you, adding levels of humanity and direction through their process. I love getting to experience friend’s art at any level. The hard part is going back and “ReViEwInG” that work, and trying to critique or opine upon something that really has no objective form at its core. This is something that someone I love made. I have no interest in tearing it down, only building it up. If a friend completes something, it’s always 5 Stars, man. They did it. Stoked for them.
That being said, as long as I’ve known Brian, he’s wanted honest feedback for honest work and I also know that he’s often sought feedback in everything he’s put together and I’ve gotten to sit in front of, whether it’s been bound books, stacks of paper printed from home, blogs, websites, newsletters… all manner of creation. So I’ll try to be as forthcoming as I can!
This is a collection of short stories, short horror stories to be more precise. Horror is a genre which I’ve somewhat struggled with in BOOK form as I’ve not often taken the time to sit and read deep horror as a genre. I’ve spent a decent amount of time with Stephen King’s work (an author who I put off for so long because his prolific nature always had me believe he would just be a Dan Brown writer who people latched on to; FAR from the truth) and I was shocked to see that his work actually got under my skin more often than not. I never truly felt DREAD at his works (though The Shining really has stuck with me for some time). I did get a bit of suspense and unease upon reading The Exorcist as well. But horror on a page doesn’t have the same gratuitous effect that a film would have on me. For some reason, I still feel detached from it, and I often have a hard time immersing myself in the medium and separating the idea that there was an author on the other side of this, fingers at a keyboard, putting dark thoughts onto their screen or paper. Despite all that it’s hard to obscure quality writing, regardless of genre.
Short story collections are tough to singularly enjoy front to back. Like picking teams in a game of pickup basketball, inevitably, you will find ones that stand out far from the rest and ones that, maybe only in compare to the other stories, don’t seem to fit beside them. This collection is no different. I did love a good handful of them, namely: The Depths, The Watersick, Transmission and Hindsight. And while those stood out the most for me, the others never felt like they were bad. I believe they all had a quality to them that felt well written, strongly seasoned with macabre description, gore, stilling moments of pause for the characters involved. But I think the stories that I highlighted not only had the great talent at play, but also the ideas that were at play were just larger than all the rest. Ghost stories, sure, but more harrowing in scope. Creative above the rest.
There was only one story that I didn’t end up liking. The story itself was taut, descriptive, ugly and putrid… it had me up until the very end. But it was the last line of it that ended up feeling like the punchline of a joke that kept me from really liking it. Knowing that it existed only to fall to a choke point like that took a lot of the wind out of its sail.
In this collection, as with all collections, we are looking at a deck of ideas. Each one of these were created at different times, in different moods, in different lights. Inspired by different phrases, different muses, different people we saw in traffic. The most inspiring thing of all, just the mere existence of this collection, is that it was completed. Any of these short pieces could have been abandoned reaches at NOVELS. Instead, these ideas came together and were completed, full circle, knowing exactly the lifespans of what these were meant to be. The signal was picked up by the writer, and the story was told as it was intended. Completion of any work of fiction is the most important piece of that fiction. I love that these exist.
Brian Martinez is someone who I’ve seen act as a prolific writer and contributor to so many horror avenues. Podcasts, audiobooks, anthologies, graphic novels, AI artwork galleries… the list is endless. He is getting his tentacles wrapped around everything he possibly can, putting work out hungrily and readily. There is no shortage of ideas and concepts, no shallow pool of inspiration. I believe that any dedicated fan of the genre would be more than appeased by following his work and getting a chance to walk the halls of the author’s mind. I recommend this collection, especially as someone who is not only dedicated to horror overall, as they don’t read like niche entries into the genre overall. They still felt human, still felt light and still felt believable. A great quick read, as I always wanted to jump in for just one more story. Just one more story. Just one more story.