The Bacchanal and Other Horrific Tales is a collection of short horror stories by various authors, and there isn't a connecting theme between them. Most of the stories seem to focus on the everyday events in peoples' lives, turning the ordinary into the horrific. At least, that seems to be the intent for many of them; the stories don't all seem to make that work. There are occasional minor typos in the text that are occasionally distracting.
The title story "The Bacchanal On The Roof" details an office party on a hotel roof, where alcohol flows too freely and a woman committed suicide. It's a story within a story, but the horror aspect fell flat to me. Maybe it was the format of how the story was told, but I didn't feel any emotional connection with the narrator or why witnessing the suicide would be so important to her since she feels so emotionally disconnected from everyone. Suicide is certainly a horrible situation, but it feels disjointed in the context of the story. Perhaps that's the horror of it? That someone's misery could be reduced to nothing at all is certainly terrible.
"The Encouragement Specialists" brings to mind Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc" short story that I had read years ago. Darren contracts with a company to keep up his encouragement to write a novel, which can be hard to keep up. When his inspiration fails, the punishments begin. Here, there's an air of menace and oddness from the beginning, and the ending fits with the content of the story.
"No Experience Necessary" is another short story that works well. This outlines every babysitter's worst nightmare and the creepy child actually isn't the one to be afraid of. "Extra Small Medium" tells of a psychic little girl who participates in beauty pageants, and this one is a low-key everyday kind of horror. "...and lose their own soul" is heartbreaking and sad more than horror, and the ending is haunting.
Some stories start off very ordinary, without too much of a menacing beginning, and then abruptly veer into the horror territory. "Bert and Bones" works very well that way, with the puns and odd behavior ending in a terrible way. "Mountain Of The Lost" makes me very glad I'm not a hiker or interested in spelunking. "Art Imitates Death" is another one that starts out slow, a man grieving for his wife, and it veers into horror territory. It's a quiet story incorporating zombie elements, and the understated ending lets you know that more terrible things are on their way. The ending actually made me stop reading to catch my breath, and is likely the most successful story in the collection.
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MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.
available formats: ebook and print (208 pages)
published: June 2016 by Dreaming Big Publishing
genres: horror, short story
a free ebook was provided by the publisher for this review
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