First published back in December 2016, British author J.R. Park’s ‘Fear Is Seldom Silent’ was penned as a challenge to create four stories with randomly pre-selected objects.  The book was created as a gift to friends over Christmas 2016, with a few given away to competition winners in January 2017. Only ten copies of the book were printed.

The book contains the original versions of the stories: ‘Fear Is Seldom Silent’, ‘Head Spin’, ‘A Christmas Tradition’ and ‘The Svalbard Horror’.

Fear Is Seldom Silent – 25 Pages
The Gaia space station had lost radio contact with NASA control a week ago.  Being the only shuttle prepped and ready to fly, Commander Chris Bennett and his small team had been sent to investigate what had happened aboard the orbiting space station.  Upon their arrival they saw no signs of damage or any breach to the space station’s exterior.  Furthermore, when entering the hull they found no signs of life.  The silence of the seemingly deserted space station was unsettling.  A strange fog-like mist, severely limiting their vision as they made their way through the space station’s corridors.  The one question reverberating around their minds: what the hell had happened to the space station’s five crew members?...

What we have here is pretty much Park’s reimagining of James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ (1986), only with less gun-toting explosive warfare and more creeping, crawling, tense horror thumping through its veins. In fact, in some way the short story’s got more in common with the original ‘Alien’ (1979) film than its sequel (although the plot’s still closer to Cameron’s follow-up).  Indeed, one thing the story has in absolute bucket loads is the suspense and almost palpable tension it creates.  As is so often the case with sci-fi horrors of this nature, it’s a little while before the story’s antagonist is revealed to the reader.  So it’s all about the build up to the grand unveiling.  The nerve-racking suspense as the rescue crew edge closer and closer to what will invariably be some form of deadly beast (or similar).  And when the “Lifeform Alpha” is revealed in this story, its presence is nothing short of spectacular.  Park depicts his alien beastie with just enough squirm-inducing detail to send your imagination into a maelstrom, as you piece together the image of the horrifying alien Park’s unleashed on the hapless crew.  ‘Alien’ (1979) taught us “In space, no one can hear you scream”.  Park’s response is simple...“Terror knows only how to scream”.  Love it!

The story later appeared within the re-released version of The Sinister Horror Company's collection ‘The Offering’ (2017).  Having read the story in both collections, and then skim-compared the two versions, I am unable to find any noticeable differences between the two.  I can therefore only assume that any changes are very minor tweaks to wording and grammar.

Head Spin – 15 Pages
Craig Masterton didn’t know exactly how long he’d been stuck in there, going round and round within the revolving glass door at the entrance to Wingfield Insurance.  The receptionist was clearly getting quite concerned.  But Craig couldn’t stop.  He was trapped.  Trapped in an endless spiral.  It was a strange predicament to be in.  But then, nothing had seemed quite right since the weird explosion in the sky last Friday night.  Not that anyone had mentioned it.  As if everyone was pretending that nothing had happened.  But Craig knew it had.  And ever since then things had been getting stranger by the second…

Don’t do drugs kids, or you might end up dreaming up frigging weird shit like this!  In all seriousness, what we have here is another prime example of Park experimenting with his writing – playing with the written format and the way in which a story can be told.  You’ll see exactly what I mean when you turn to the first page of the tale.  It’s damn clever.  And it works.  Through the way the story is delivered you’ll literally feel like your spinning in the revolving door with our hapless protagonist.  A head spin indeed!  And accompanying that you have a classic sci-fi horror story that toys with paranoia in a wonderfully David Icke conspiratorial kind of way.  Excellent stuff.

The story was later published within Park’s collection ‘Death Dreams In A Whorehouse’ (2017).  Having again read the story in both collections, and then skim-compared the two versions, I found only the most negligible of differences between the two. 

A Christmas Tradition – 14 Pages
Each year they did the same.  Each year they’d put on that infuriating home video of her in the choir.  Just the thought of it made her cringe inside.  That was why Kerry had taken herself upstairs into her parents’ attic room.  The embarrassment was killing her.  However she’d found a way to pass the time.  She’d started exploring the various boxes up there and had inadvertently stumbled across an old Quality Street tin containing Scribbles - her beloved teddy bear from when she was a young child.  Although, barely a minute after she’d found the teddy, it’d fallen down the stairs and disappeared.  But then, when the teddy reappears, it’s far from the cuddly toy Kerry remembered.  Now Scribbles is ten times the size and hell-bent on mauling her…

This is a weird one.  Well, it’s supposed to seem weird…that is until Park reveals his final hand, and in doing so, the real motivations behind the tale are unveiled.  But before all that happens we have one strange stocking-filler of a tale, with a giant teddy bear going on the rampage.  It’s surreal and utterly nightmarish.  But where the real magic of the tale lies is how Park makes it all make sense in the end.  How it all falls into place in such a surprisingly sad and unforeseeably moving way.

The story was later published within Park’s Christmas collection ‘Death Dreams At Christmas’ (2017). Having read the story in both collections, and then skim-compared the two versions, I am unable to find any noticeable differences between the two.  I can therefore only assume that any changes are very minor tweaks to wording and grammar.

The Svalbard Horror – 28 Pages
Winter, 1881.  The waves had washed them on an unsteady and meandering course somewhere between Iceland and Norway.  However, Alex Hadcock now found himself alone, save for the last souls of the slaughtered aboard The Four Leafed Clover.  He would have thrown the dead overboard but for his fear that he might wake the beast.  He now fears any rescue attempts will result in his would-be saviours meeting the same fate as his crew.  That’s because he knew it was still there.  He could feel it.  It was best he, and the ship, just drift endlessly upon the waves.  The song of the Sirens, left to float away with the churn of the waves.  Only time would tell his fate.  And that of the beast…

This one’s about as creepy as they come.  Set in the late nineteenth century, Park’s prose encapsulates the mournful mood of the era with a seemingly effortless ease.  The story is shrouded in a foggish cloak of mystery, only really revealing the terrifying reality in its final few pages.  Before this, there’s a wealth of cloying suspense brought into the story, smothering the reader as we try to fathom any sort of understanding of what the beast that is terrorising the crew is.  The sheer feeling of dread that Park projects in his story, especially once we’re on Svalbard, is astonishing.  You’ll feel like you’ve been plunged into the icy sea itself from the chills that you’ll feel victim to.  And that sudden, bludgeoning, twist-ending.  You’ll never see it coming.  And when it hits, it seems to rip the air from your lungs.  Superb stuff.

The story was later published within Park’s collection ‘Death Dreams In A Whorehouse’ (2017).  Having again read the story in both collections, and then skim-compared the two versions, I found only very negligible differences between the two, such as the odd changed word or additional sentence etc included in the released version.

Author’s Notes – 5 Pages
Park concludes the collection explaining how he’d asked four friends to give him a list of five things to provide inspiration for some short stories.  He received four responses back, and liked them all, so went on to write stories based on these specific items and elements.

Over the four pages that follow, Park provides some brief notes on the creation of each of the four stories, together with the lists originally provided to inspire those stories.  A great way to end the collection, giving that little insight into the inspiration and creation of four incredibly different short stories of imaginative horror.

The collection runs for a total of 103 pages.

© DLS Reviews



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