Epeolatry Book Review: Conjured Darkness by Michael Jess Alexander
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Title: Conjured Darkness
Author: Michael Jess Alexander
Release date: 23rd December, 2022
Synopsis: In this short story collection, award-winning writer Michael Jess Alexander serves up a morbid menagerie of aliens, cultists, murderers, and more.
“Trapdoors” depicts a world plagued by a bizarre, seemingly lethal phenomenon.
In “The Screaming Void,” a betrayal of trust causes a teen to suffer unfortunate consequences.
A youth struggles to control a terrifying, newfound power in “Away Game.”
These and other tales make up this work of imaginative horror prose.
Often, nothing sates one’s appetite for horror than a quick piece of fiction. Maybe a quick read before bed, or a commute that doesn’t quite lend itself the time for a novel? That’s where Conjured Darkness: Six Macabre Tales will fill the gap. Michael Jess Alexander delivers a short story collection so good, it won Indies Today 2022 Best Horror. Without wasting anymore time, I’ll summon up and review some of the stories.
In “Quiet Mimicry”, Hunter is one of the last humans in his city who hasn’t been infected. On a chance encounter, he meets another like himself. When a visit leads to a terrifying revelation about the types of monsters that still exist, Hunter must choose the lesser of two evils.
“Trapdoor” catalogs the events of a recent phenomenon that has people disappearing all over the world. It will soon become apparent that no one is beyond the trap.
When a young boy is given the ability to manipulate the world around him, he soon finds that such powers can be quite destructive. Even worse, when the voices in his head attempt to press him further, he might realize he was never in control to begin with in “Away Game”.
“The Experiment” shows just how far curiosity will take a boy and his friend as they break into his father’s lab. But when the worst happens, and the guilt is too unbearable, it might turn out that curiosity had nothing to do with it.
In the story, “Small Revolution”, an odd interruption on the TV leads to a role reversal among the biggest and smallest of the human population. Careful with your toys, children.
When a young girl begins her witchcraft training, the one rule the old neighbor has is, “be patient”. Given the opportunity to prove herself, the girl takes her chance but finds she’s face to face with “The Screaming Void”.
This collection is short and sweet with a punch. Each story is well written with big payoffs. Doing my best not to spoil any of these tales, “Trapdoor” and “The Experiment” offer amazing endings that perfectly round out the story. “Small Revolution” has a very heartfelt sinister aspect to it as the main character deals with a child whom he knows has power over him.
“Away Game” does a great job of turning up the weird, while upping the ante the entire way. “The Screaming Void” is a great way to end a horror anthology as the result of the girl’s actions are ever so final.
But by far, my favorite story within the collection was “Quiet Mimicry”. I can’t impart to you, dear reader, the amazement at reading a story about a topic I recently considered. Have you ever thought about what happens to a Cthulhu cult when the Zombie Apocalypse happens? Perhaps you’ve wondered what happens to the chainsaw wielding maniac when all the skinny-dipping teens turn into vampires. “Quiet Mimicry” is an amazing version of this scenario, and it doesn’t disappoint.
For fans of short form horror and great anthologies, I highly recommend this collection by Michael Jess Alexander.
Available from Amazon.
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Joseph Pietris is a member of the United States Coast Guard by day and heavily involved in the horror community by night. His work has appeared in several anthologies. When not writing, he’s produced reviews and interviews preferring those works generally lost in the cracks. As an associate editor, Joseph has weeding through the submission piles of horror podcasts.
Joseph’s work can be found at Amazon.com: Joseph P. Pietris: books, biography, latest update