Monday, September 14, 2009
Book Review: The Dark Verse, Vol. 1 by M. Amanuensis Sharkchild
The Dark Verse, Volume 1: From the Passages of Revenants is a collection of 26 fantastical short stories from the darkly imaginative mind of author M. Amanuensis Sharkchild. Sharkchild’s stories were first featured on his self-produced podcast “The Dark Verse” where he would release a fantastically horrific story every two weeks.
The podcast developed quite a following and led to the stories being collected into The Dark Verse Volume 1. This is a beautifully black-bound book with a silver foil cover and black dusting that contains some of the most bizarre and engaging stories I’ve ever come across. The tales tell of distant dimensions and unbelievable beings all the while oozing with an otherworldly atmosphere.
Each and every one of the stories drew me in with the eloquent and sophisticated writing of Sharkchild. Delving deeper and deeper into the great unknown, Sharkchild conjures visions of horrifying monsters and mysterious worlds beyond our own. He creates a window that peers into the black abyss, and the result is that things from the unknown start to look back.
Some would be quick to point out the similarities between Sharkchild’s esoteric style and H.P. Lovecraft’s writings, but though they appear similar I would argue that Sharkchild has a very distinct and unique way of unveiling his mysterious stories. I will say that like any good horror author, Sharkchild’s stories will leave you unhinged as you get a glimpse of the strange species that permeate his imagination and have scrawled themselves into this book.
For example, in the short story What the Flesh Cannot Keep the “Haunter Behind Space” is described by the poor mortal who sees it as “eyes that covered every surface, the souls within them, and the vulgar, detestable complacency of existence that saturated every ounce of its being”. Of course, seeing such a creature would prove fatal to any mortal…
One of my favorite stories is The Changing of the Feyth, told in two parts, about feyths, which are regarded as demigods in their realm. The feyth protagonist describes his race as such: “Our flesh is ash gray and its texture is that of leather. Our eyes are as black as coal and our teeth are as sharp as swords. Our ears are large and so are our noses. We grow to be tall as giants, but our bodies always keep the same slenderness, no matter what our strength or what we consume. Our only master is the Almighty of Shadows…” The story is about how one feyth turns against his brethren and is filled with bloody battle, ghosts and even fairies.
In the story titled Between the Corridors, a small child is haunted by the “Midnight Apothecary”, a nightmarish vision that invades his very mind. It perverts childhood innocence and memories of balloons and ice cream with a menacing and sinister parasitic creature that invades the child’s mind and won’t let go until he relinquishes it.
The book is filled with excellent stories such as those mentioned above, so it is hard not to talk about each and every single one as there is not a bad one in the entire collection. For space sake, I’ll have to keep it down to those mentioned above with hopes they give you a general gist of the fascinating tales told by Sharkchild.
All of Sharkchild’s stories are inhabited by grotesque yet sometimes wondrous beings who have managed to break forth into our own world. These unimaginably horrific monsters populate these short stories, and Sharkchild’s writing brings them to startling and shocking clarity. His stories exist on a different plane, a dimension where unspeakable horrors lie in wait, ready to assault and invade our own existence. These are tales that could reduce you to madness as you marvel at their complex simplicity. Horror lies in fearing the unknown, and boy, does Sharkchild ever have a grasp of how to scare us!
Besides the articulate and intelligent way Sharkchild tells his stories, I must also comment on the overall aesthetic of the book, which is absolutely gorgeous. The outside of the hardback book is wrapped in a faux leather with silver foil stamping adorning it, as well as black dusting on the edges of the pages. Its presentation is impeccable, but only gets better when you open the tome, for inside is stunning artwork by John F. Stifter. Truly, this is one of the most beautifully books I’ve ever reviewed and Armored Books did a fabulous job with its design. This book, though no doubt well-read, will adorn my bookcase for a long, long time.
The Dark Verse, Volume 1: From the Passages of Revenants is an elite collection of fascinating and frightening stories that is sure to impress any horror aficionado who is looking for more peculiar tales rather than the standard slasher/zombie/vampire/serial killer novels that tend to permeate horror fiction. Its high quality is a rarity and I, for one, will treasure this book for a long while.
Order it on Amazon!