Being part of a Writing Group
Being part of a Writing Group

Epeolatry Book Review: Night Walk and Other Dark Paths by Aeryn Rudel

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Title: Night Walk: and Other Dark Paths
Author: Aeryn Rudel
Genre: Horror Short Stories
Publisher: The Molotov Cocktail
Release Date: 22nd April, 2021

Synopsis: Aeryn Rudel’s characters exist on the brink, dwelling in the murky liminal space between darkness and light, life and death, eternal and ephemeral. Within this flash fiction collection, Night Walk, you will encounter humanity turned feral, transcendence through depravity, and supernatural entities acting all too human.

These stories don’t just go bump in the night, they shriek into the void. So light a candle, crack open these pages, and traverse their lost roads.

I’ve read Rudel’s dark flash fiction over the years, and having enjoyed it, when this collection came up for review via the publisher Molotov Cocktail, and Horror Tree, I grabbed it double quick. So glad I did. I ate up these shortish macabre tales in juicy gobbets, dipping, chowing down, reading them out of order, (I know – really breaking the rules there!) and thoroughly relished every one of the forty in this collection, even the sci-fi which isn’t my preferred genre. (Honourable exception for ‘Star Trek’).

The majority of these flash fiction pieces have been published before (but not all of them) by Flame Tree Press, ‘The Molotov Cocktail’, ‘The Arcanist’ and other magazines/sites. Rudel divided the collection into three parts titled: ‘Dusk’, ‘Midnight’, and ‘Dawn’.  An enthusiastic foreword from Josh Goller of ‘Molotov’ comes with spooky artwork from Valerie Herron.

Rudel’s distinctive voice packs a lot of story into a few words. He always starts strong with intriguing openers: ‘It starts with the dogs . . .’ (‘The Father of Terror’); ‘“I need you to shoot me in the head . . .”’ (the darkly black comic ‘Do Me a Favour’); ‘We don’t turn on the lights in Moore…’ (‘When the Lights Go On’). Straight away you’re hooked, drawn, wanting to know what the heck is going on. And in the next mere two-three printed pages Rudel hands you a fully developed story with fleshed out characters, and often, a twist in the tail. I inhabited these mini worlds, swept along with his writing.

Here we have horror, sci-fi, and fantasy intermingled in this collection – and although my fave is horror, I enjoyed the others. All sorts of monsters march through these pages: vampires, serial killers who fancy themselves as sculptural artists, a cannibal, invading aliens, gremlins, werewolves, ghosts, experimental hybrids (Beware of ‘Little Sister’ she’s not made of sugar and spice by any means), zombies, and in the titular ‘Night Walk’ the ‘lurkers’ devour you from the shadows.

Flash at its best – fast, furious, frenetic, gripping, and gut grabbing. 

Rudel also makes the brevity of flash fiction look effortless and easy – it isn’t; I’ve written (and been lucky enough to have my flash published) a many pieces. It’s a tough, demanding, challenging format to make work – with much rewriting needed – while tossing out everything extraneous. The writer must get down to the bones of the tale.

So, now to a few of my absolute faves:

The opening story, ‘Things That Grow’ – what things they are! The very funny ‘Small Evil’ had me chuckling all the way through – with the rather superior, patronising demon conjured up by the sackless necromancers. ‘Far Shores and Ancient Graves’ offered a brilliant two-word last line, and a new riff on prehistoric battles. Then the aforementioned super creepy ‘Little Sister’ – did you know there’s a gateway to hell in the men’s room? Neither did I, but in ‘Stall Number Two’ I got to venture inside – wickedly funny. And in ‘Do Me a Favour’, never has an apocalypse been dealt with so nonchalantly.

Read these small gems, laugh, wince, and weep – but you will be moved and entranced. 

 out of 5 ravens.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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