Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Magazine Review: Shock Totem Issue 2
Finally, after a year Shock Totem is back with its second issue and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I was again impressed by the glossy cover of the magazine, which looks more of like a slim book rather than a magazine. The cover design by Hicham Haddaji is eye-catching and I couldn’t wait to dive into the contents!
The editorial by K. Allen Wood is an informative read on publishing the second issue and explanations of the delays the Shock Totem team encountered. The basic reason the second issue was delayed was quality…the people hard at work on the magazine wanted to make sure they had high quality as well as variety for their future issues. I can’t argue with that…if waiting meant a higher quality mag than I can be patient!
And, wow, what an astounding collection of short stories the second issue contains! Like issue one, I was immensely impressed by both the variety of content and its high quality. All of the short stories contained in the magazine are worthy of a read, but I did have a few favorites!
Kicking things off was “The Rat Burner” by Ricardo Bare. The story tells of the Jacob, known to others as “The Guide”, who takes paying customers to a mysterious door that seems to grant wishes…with dire consequences. The characters were so well developed in this story, as was the setting of the ghetto. You could almost smell the trash, rat droppings and general decay of the neighborhood where Jacob lives and conducts business. “The Rat Burner” was a fantastic story to kick off this collection.
I also enjoyed Vincent Pendersgast’s “The Rainbow Serpent”, based on the Aboriginal myth. It tells the tale of Gavin, out for revenge against his ex. However, his bus ride turns quite surreal as the Rainbow Serpent seeks to punish this law-breaker. I haven’t had much exposure to myths from Australia, so this story was very interesting and unique. I also loved its nightmarish visuals and tone; the story really felt like one of those nightmares you just can’t wake up from (I mean that in the best way possible!).
Another favorite (probably my favorite of the collection) was “Pretty Little Ghouls” by Cate Gardner. It’s about a little girl facing the death sentence in prison…but turns out she is no ordinary child. This was only one page long, but it was just so haunting and creepy with plenty of surprising elements that is was amazingly effective. And I absolutely loved its unsettling story!
Lastly, I loved both “Messages from Valerie Polichar” (Gra Linnaea and Sarah Dunn) and “Leave Me the Way I was Found” (Christian A. Dumais). They both deal with modern technology and how connected we all are through the internet. “Messages” deals with Facebook and “Leave Me” deals with YouTube and viral videos. Both are extremely timely and I love how they both made technology so creepy!
Those are my favorites, but, honestly, it was tough just to choose a few to feature because all of the stories in Shock Totem were taut, tense and full of suspense! There is even a nifty section at the end of the book where each of the authors explain their inspiration for the stories featured in the magazine. I absolutely loved how they discussed their influences for their stories!
The second issue of Shock Totem is another wonderful collection of short stories that is very much worth picking up. It also contains an interview with author James Newman and reviews of films, books, music and video games. Those who put together Shock Totem haven’t had an easy time putting together this wonderful magazine for all of us to enjoy, but despite their hardships they’ve put together a stunning second issue that I highly recommend!
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