Monday, February 17, 2014
Rose of Sharon and Other Stories - by Gary A. Braunbeck - A wonderful collection of speculative fiction
Rose of Sharon and Other Stories is not a collection of horror per se, but does have elements of horror in a number of the stories. I believe one could best describe this as a work of speculative fiction. Twenty-Six tales including poetry, flash fiction, shorts and at least one novella make for a very entertaining read.
The book starts off with one of the strongest stories of the collection, "Man With a Canvas Bag." Which also has a killer opening line, "When I was a little boy there lived on our street--four houses down from my family, to be exact--a man who killed his five-year-old-daughter." Wow. I was very excited to see where this one was going.
Braunbeck is a skilled writer who is able to take your hand and draw you into the world he's created. In this story, I could almost smell the autumn leaves. It brought back memories of burying myself in a big pile of Autumn's finest and jumping out to scare my sister and brothers when I was a kid. And what man of a certain age didn't have a "shelf full of Aurora monster models" in their room at one time. But then this sweet story of a beautiful Autumn day quickly turns tragic. Like a punch in the face when you're not expecting it.
Some of my other favorites were, "Mail-Order Annie," a wonderfully complete story full of charm and a bit of horror. I also liked, "Aisle of Plenty'" an all too real story on the power of prejudice. I also enjoyed "In the Lowlands," a look at life as a hobo and a pretty cool story to boot. Plus, it also had another very strong opening line, "There's an old superstition among hoboes--especially those whose camps are made near the switch yards--that a 'Bo's death is mourned by the whistles of two passing trains; the sounds meet overhead in the night, and though each might me a bit mournful when heard by itself, they combine to create a pleasant song of welcome for the 'Bo's soul as he takes himself that last great freight to Heaven."
Others I enjoyed included, "I Never Spent the Money," which read like an old Twilight Zone episode, "When It is Decided That the War Is Over," that one just blew me away. And then there's the title piece, "The Rose of Sharon" which all by itself is worth the purchase price.
There is an underlying sweetness to many of Bruanbeck's stories, but that doesn't make them any less potent. Many of his stories take place in the fictional town of Cedar Hill, Ohio. After a while you start to feel comfortable in that place, as you should. Just don't get too relaxed.
Rose of Sharon and Other Stories from Creative Guy Publishing is available now both in print and ebook formats from a number of retailers including Amazon .com
I highly recommend a visit to Cedar Hill, Ohio.