The “Tales From the Box Volume 1: Fantasy and Supernatural Horror” book has twenty-four stories, twenty-three written by Weston Kincade and one by Michael Harness. The one by Michael Harness is an expansion on Weston Kincade’s “A Life of Death” trilogy, which features the psychic detective, Alex Drummond. GiN reviewed that book in 2017.
A whole group of such pastiche stories based on Alex Drummond would be a treat. It would give Kincade’s fans a chance to show their take on his world and characters. Just like Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft’s Mythos, or Frankenstein’s monster have all had new life and different takes by other authors.
The other twenty-three stories do not just keep to the genre of modern fantasy. They also display a range of themes. They vary from the sci-fi Weird West of “Off World Bounties” to the fantasy horror of “Tick Tock.” In fact, “Off World Bounties” has an intriguing premise that hints at other worlds already populated by humanity. There is even a piece of flash fiction called “Knock, Knock.”
The story, “H.E.L.L.”, in which the devils of perdition take on the services of a PR firm reminds me of the Rod Serling Twilight Zone fables where the wicked get what they deserve and make you want to see more of the fictional world it invokes. “Permadrunk” follows this same Rod Serling feel with another sense of cosmic justice.
“Masks” makes use of Greek mythology, and its monsters are made manifest in the modern world. “Three-Car World” makes up its own mythology where a group of continuously traveling passengers are on a steam train powered by the magic of its own ticketless travelers. “Out to Lunch” shows how a world of fey creatures and their politics can be both deceitful and deadly. “Uncertain Future” also explores how a world could employ, punish, or exploit those who used magic.
Most of the stories are in the third person, with “Tech Support” being a notable exception. In it, the character’s voice is the only one, until it begins to be hijacked in an interesting take on what dystopian programming could do. The previously mentioned flash fiction is the only one that takes an abstract take on narrative structure. It follows a timeline based on numbered weeks with a conclusion that circles back to its beginning.
The authorial voice is not overbearing in any of the stories. There is little commenting on the events except by the characters themselves. This makes most of the book’s offerings character rather than plot driven.
“Tales From the Box Volume 1: Fantasy and Supernatural Horror” is a collection that is well worth reading if fantasy and supernatural horror are to your taste. I for one also can’t wait to see Volume 2 from this talented author!