(This review by Gabino Iglesias.)
“Do your work never so well,” the spectre was whispering – “rise early and toil til late, rob cunningly or serve faithfully, you shall never know security. Rich you may be now and still come to poverty at last. Leave never so much wealth to your children, you cannot buy the assurance that your son may not be the servant of your servant, or that your daughter will not have to sell herself for bread.” — Edward Bellamy, “Looking Backward”
The term dark fiction has become a tad diluted by the onslaught of vampire, zombie and pseudo-horror novels that currently dot the literary landscape. However, in J.R. Hamantaschen’s You Shall Never Know Security, a collection of 13 short stories, dark fiction is back to what it was meant to be: a bloodcurdling jump into the gloomiest and most sinister corners of the human psyche.
With an elegant and eloquent prose that brings to mind the work of Lovecraft, Hamantaschen repeatedly pulls away the thin cover or normalcy that’s usually thrown over our daily lives and unabashedly shows readers what lies beneath. Regret, despair, fear, envy and guilt are all here, and the stories in which they appear are the kind that tend to stick with readers after the reading is over.
You Shall Never Know Security starts off well. “Wonder,” the second tale in the collection, is one of its highlights. Poetic and drenched in the sticky ichor of a lost love, this one reads exactly like what it is: a creepy love letter from something that’s not quite human.
The next two tales are also among the best. First comes “Endemic,” a narrative that deals with sexuality and desire in its most unhealthy representations. Fast paced and rooted in research, the story builds up to a sad finale that somehow seems inevitable. “A Parasite Inside Your Brain” immediately follows. Caitlin Boston is a girl with a serious self esteem problem who one night gets an uninvited guest in her ear. With the alien creature nestled in her cranium, Caitlin starts to get better. When a doctor discovers what’s living inside her head, Caitlin will have the creature removed, but the subtraction will have some unexpected effects.
Other must-read stories include:
– “Sorrow Has Its Natural End,” a tale that brings more than one surprising twist and deals with the way we process death, incapacity and envy.
– “There Is A Family Of Gnomes Behind My Walls, And I Swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Any Longer,” which shows that Hamantaschen can mix humor with his dark prose and is somewhat reminiscent of Poe’s work.
– “College,” a narrative that successfully deconstructs academic discourse and practice while simultaneously offering a superb dialog between two individuals in which our own selfish nature is brutally exposed.
– “There Must Be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere,” which is the last of the stories and the longest in the book, brings together fear and guilt like no other tale in the collection. As a bonus, it’s also the most mysterious of all of Hamantaschen’s short fiction.
If you crave some truly dark fiction, pick this one up. Maybe the words on the cover will turn out to be more than just a title.
You Shall Never Know Security is available for Kindle and in paperback.
(This review by Gabino Iglesias.)
Oh, yeah, this is an awesome book – I’m pretty sure i reviewed this after the point where the reviews would show up on my blog, Now is Gone; anyway, my review is also on goodreads, Shelfari, Amazon… LOVED this book!
Thanks for the kind words – though of course, I remember your review, and you know I’m duly appreciative.
Hey, I know both of you two! (It’s me, J.R.) Btw, did those unmarked bags of money make it to your door step?
I recently finished this collection and found it quite good. He is extremely strong with creating character, and his fiction is authentically weird. The prose seemed very modern to me, which is something I sometimes don’t enjoy, being an old soul, but I was captivated by these tales. There are places when the descriptions are beautifully poetic. An excellent book.
I love this anthology! I my self did a review at Unspeakable Gibberer back in October/November and got a nice response from J.R. himself. I first heard of the book from one of my favorite podcasts, The Drabblecast. They gave him great exposure to the “weird” community. Good Stuff!