“Curled against the side of the train, the young girl looked at him with eyes sunken by death.”
Dylan J. Morgan‘s a damn good writer. Of the indie authors I’ve discovered this year, he ranks in the top 3, and he’s definitely my new favorite horror novelist. I had the privilege of interviewing him for my Author Spotlight about his recent release, post-apocalyptic hybrid scifi-slash-horror novel The Dead Lands. After reading a sample of his work, I was sold on the quality of his writing.
Dominio della Morte (translation: “Death’s Domain”) is a pitch-dark collection of horror shorts that did not disappoint. I cannot repeat myself enough – this author is seriously talented. His voice is unique and identifiable in the huge mass of indie authors who overpopulate the internet. I have high hopes for his career longevity, as he effectively mixes old school scares with modern situations, and provides unique twists on classic tales. His creations are innovative and entertaining; the imagery he employs is really top-notch. His writing style is descriptive without being over-the-top (though his characters do vomit an awful lot). I especially enjoyed his believable characters and the familiar, yet creative, situations he placed them in (the werewolves stalking your remote family cabin, the husband who wouldn’t stay dead, the father forced to kill his zombie-fied family).
So wind ’em up and watch ’em go…and don’t be surprised if you come away from the experience delightfully scarred in the process.
“Death’s Domain” – the eponymous opener is a fantastic introduction to Morgan’s voice, and sets the bar for the stories to follow. It’s creepy, visceral, and engaging. From the start, I wanted to learn more about this man who awoke in a nightmarish purgatorial wasteland, but Morgan gave his character enough background to satisfy my curiosity. The moral of the story is serious, but doesn’t distract from the entertainment.
“Beasts at the Door” – what an adrenaline rush! The werewolves are genuinely frightening – I worried about the protagonist (a young girl) from beginning to end – I cared about her fate more than any of the other protagonists in the book. The gore is shudder-inducing without being overkill, and the suspense builds to a satisfying conclusion. I loved this terrifying survival tale of mortals vs. supernaturals.
“My Family” – I cannot say enough good things about this story. It’s perfect in pacing, mood, action. The horror is well-balanced with the humor. A shell-shocked man who has just lost his family (only to have them reanimate as zombies), does his best to survive, but he also longs to join his loved ones in un-death. At times I laughed aloud – at others, I felt a lump in my throat; I was cringing throughout. Morgan does his best work when he doesn’t hold back, but also doesn’t go too far, and this story is a great example of a well-balanced horror short. Bonus: the ending line was brilliant – so simple, yet meaningful. Highly recommend this one to folks who want to run the gamut of emotions.
Other notable entries:
“You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”
“The Body Artist”
Sick & Twisted
What Could Improve
The pacing of the book suffered a bit from the relentless middle half. Here’s the dilemma: I love gore, but many of these stories are (literally) quite hard to digest all at once. I’m empathetic by nature, so I’m very easily overwhelmed by the emotions of a character. Some of these stories are extremely cruel – it actually hurt to read them.
However, after a couple of such brutal stories in a row, it was almost like I became numb to the horror, and I had to take a break from reading. Again, this might reflect my personal taste more than the fault of the author, but I was really looking for that breath of (comparatively) fresh air – like darkly humorous, one of the flash-fic-length-stories that had the right amount of humor and horror (and a great opening line).
Also lacking – a working table of contents (a minor quibble, but still annoying). To maximize the reading experience, I would suggest that the author more clearly delineate the stories into themed sections, as to warn the reader of the content. For example, the section with all the disgusting gore titled “Body Horror” or something along those lines). Of course, when you buy a book whose title translates to “Death’s Domain,” you should know what you’re getting into…nevertheless, I would have appreciated a bit more organization in this collection.
Not My Favorite
The majority of these stories were top-notch, but hard-boiled supernatural tale “Burns” is a noir entry that I didn’t quite buy. The vibe of the story was Sin City meets Hellboy. A very interesting attempt, but it was not an entirely successful entry, maybe because the dialogue bordered on cheesy crime drama. Still, it has potential, as all of these stories do. For me, it’s a rare misstep in an otherwise solid collection.
To Sum It Up
Dominio della Morte an exceptional collection of horror shorts, displaying frequent flashes of brilliance and overall mastery of the genre. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and one that I shall revisit when I’m lusting for a little terror and bloodshed. If you’re a horror junkie, do yourself a favor – check out his blog. It’s chock-full of free flash-fic gems.
Given our professional rapport, I was hoping I would enjoy Morgan’s work. But I don’t just enjoy it – I crave it. Three of his other books are in my reading queue on Kindle. Next week, I’m looking forward to sharing my review of his thrilling novel The Dead Lands. Spoiler: I dug it like a necrophiliac loves a freshly unearthed corpse. Horrific? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.
Curious horror fanatics, you’re in luck – Dominio della Morte is currently on sale for the shocking low price of 99 cents. This is a novel-length book. I’ve seen some best-selling Kindle books priced at three times or more this amount with three times less the quality. Still not sure if you want to part ways with your precious dollar? Preview Dominio della Morte on Amazon Kindle (universal link) using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
“An Insurrection (A Sword and Shield Short Book 1)” by A. S. Washington
“The Assassin’s Remorse” by JMD Reid
My Prison Without Bars by Taylor Evan Fulks
Warning: LGBT themes, strong language, violence, and sexual situations. Reader discretion is advised.