This is perilously close to a how-to book about your favorite things: sex, death and mind control. This collection of eight short stories twists into a deliciously dark warning of how dangerous seemingly ordinary people can be. You might even be one of the dangerous ones. Each tale of psychological horror packs a gut punch of surprise every time. (Two award-winners are included in this collection.)
You’re thinking about buying this book, but you’re not sure. Look behind you. Make sure you’re alone. Now look again, because the truth is, you’re never alone. They’re watching through the keyholes and your computer. They use the pipes under your toilet for antennae. Let them know you’re on to them. Make them think you’re one of them. Click “BUY.”
No? Bad news: I’m the grim-faced man standing behind you with something behind his back. And I am not happy.
Yes? Welcome to the revolution, friend.
When I picked up Robert Chazz Chute’s “Sex, Death and Mind Control (for fun and profit)”, I braced myself for strangeness. This is, after all, the author of a book called “Self-Help for Stoners” and, from the little contact I’ve had with him, is a quirky and hilarious guy. I was prepared for humour, for the absurd, and indeed the introduction, the preface, even the dedication made me laugh, giggle, or roll my eyes.
Then I hit the stories.
On a recent post, I talked about my aversion to horror. It prevents me from sleeping and usually leaves me a bleary-eyed mess in the wee hours of the night. Perhaps I should be more specific. It’s physical horror that gets to me. Bugs, ghosts, masked people with chainsaws. *shudder*.
Psychological horror, on the other hand, I love. Hannibal Lecter is probably my favourite “villain” of any thriller film/novel. The way he gets in your head and twists around thoughts until the irrational seems rational. Sure there was the physical element too, but it was secondary.
That’s the best comparison I can make to Chute’s collection of short stories. Fortune tellers, psychiatrists who master in hypnotic suggestion, PTSD victims, these shorts are full of manipulation, powerful suggestion and psychological disturbance. In some stories you’re on the side of the mind-bender, wanting his words to sink in, wanting the other character to be twisted around to his will. In others, you take the place of the victims and suffer along with them, just wanting it to be over. While all of the stories kept me reading, some caught me off guard with how powerful they were. “End of the Line”, “Jack and Diane”, and “Sidewalkers”, grabbed my attention and even (prepare yourself) made me think about the message behind him. Thoughts about human nature, my own perspective of the world around me, whether I would ever answer a telephone again – the important questions.
I’m not sure if the author is working on any other projects of a similar ilk at the moment, but when he does I will be there to read them.