Time for another short fiction review and this time it is for a short collection of short stories. “A feast of flesh: Stories of zombies, monsters, and demons” by Aaron Polson collects 10 short stories and monsters that are mostly based on classic monsters into one 75 page chapbook that can be downloaded for free from Smashwords. I really enjoy reading these chapbooks because you never know what you are going to get and a short story collection makes it even more of an adventure.
The collection opens with “Cargo,” a short story about a man whose job it is to clean up the bodies after the nights that the monsters come out. He is an outcast from society but it is his function and he accepts it until he a meets a child who may change his perspective. “Tesoro’s magic bullet” is the tale of a troubled war veteran and “The way of things in fly-over country” is fairly straight-forward zombie fare. “Former vocations” is a poetic look at zombies and the people they were before they died. “In the primal library” is at first comic then tragic look at the power of a boy’s mind and curiosity. Polson saves the best for last as the collection closes out with “Down there” about an ancient evil that may lie below any of us. Those are only some of the stories that lurk within the covers of this book.
As with many short story collections, “A feast of flesh” has some stories that are better than others. A couple of the stories just did not interest me all that much but that is not really too surprising. Overall, however, this was a good collection and had a couple very strong stories in it.
Somewhat surprising was the fact that the best stories in the book were not the stories that dealt with zombies. “In the primal library” was a strong story and “Sea of green, sea of gold” was an interesting tale of a field in which even the grass could kill that reminded me a lot of some Stephen King works (like “In the tall grass” co-written with Joe Hill and, for some odd reason, “The raft”). But, as mentioned earlier in the review, the best story of the collection, and also the longest, was “Down there.” While the action in the story takes place out of the narrative as a teacher tries to unravel the string of his friend’s death, it still had a very creepy feel to it and was very well written.
The chapbooks released through Smashwords are always a bit uncertain going in. Since they are not by established authors, one never quite knows what he will find in the book. Sometimes they are good while other times they are quite bad. “A feast of flesh” falls in the good category and is highly recommended. The stories are very short but they have bite and a couple of them have some staying power that will ensure that the reader thinks about them long after the final word has been read.