by KR Pendergrass
All Alone and Far Too Quiet is a collection of twenty short horror stories; all slightly different in form and tone but taking inspiration from classic 1980s horror tales and their focus on atmosphere and a growing sense of fear.
All Alone and Far Too Quiet is a mixed bag but nonetheless enjoyable. Ms Pendergrass certainly nails the 80s schlock-horror in a number of them and it works well. The first two, American Heroes and The Asbury Experiment were quite similar. I felt neither were the strongest and the dynamic between the characters in American Heroes was a little jarring and this was also present in The Asbury Experiment. A number of the stories had a jaunty, almost comedic tone which, personally, worked in some but not in others. However, there are a couple of central themes that reappear in a number of the tales and I think the addition of humour is possibly used so that these issues are not explored as deeply as they might have been. Stormcove Hotel was one of the strongest, it was cleverly structured and the twist is very neat. Bunker House is both a homage and a parody of your typical haunted house story and it works because the prose is open and unapologetic in making the reader aware of this subversion.
Daddy’s Little Girl was the standout; what at first seems to be a fairly normal, linear horror turns the tables and it was very well-realised and incredibly atmospheric. Music for the Soul was also another effective short with a conclusion that in a strange way made you smile – again, the reader was in on the ‘joke’. Fight or Flight was very effective at building tension and the use of the cabin in the woods imbued the narrative with a traditionally sinister layer. The conclusion was surprising; it was refreshing that it did not follow the normal trope. Lost was quite thought-provoking and the early overlay of humour from the narrator worked as it completely wrong-foots the reader. The River, Ashes and DWE seemed a little half-hearted. Last Call had a great foundation and needed to be developed further but as before, there was a sense of the writer lacking in confidence. Both Fairy Tale and Sternutation were amusing but possibly superfluous in this collection. Butcher Cave, Claws and Jaded were really decent short horrors, full of foreboding, disturbing elements and certainly paid tribute to Stephen King, especially Jaded.
I did note quite a few typos throughout but overall, this a readable and interesting collection of horror shorts that pay clear homage to the modern classic form with some amusingly clever twists on the genre. Worth a look.