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This omnibus edition of Canyons features seventeen different stories about twisted tales of love, the usual but terrific science fiction that this series is known for as well as engrossing and funny tales of time travel. Read on to discover:
S. Elliot Brandis’ “Swipe Right” – Mae is on the prowl for a good time, using the Tinder app to find someone who will fulfill her needs. But her needs are more than meets the eye and when she finds the right guy, the story gives us a completely unexpected turn of events! A delicious confection of seduction and violence, with some eviscerating surprises that cut me to the core like a razor-sharp knife. And you will cheer her actions by the end of the story.
Nathan M. Beauchamp’s “94.2% (A Romance)" – Jonathan is having problems with his landlord, who believes he’s clogged the plumbing. However, what’s causing the problem here leads to marital strife and a painful problem with a heart-wrenching solution! I was enraptured by the different revelations and complicated dynamics of this unusual relationship and ultimately by how the story illustrated it.
Will Swardstrom’s “After The End” – Sadie has survived both the apocalypse and her own personal hell. After many years of not having any human contact, why is there someone hiding in her home and who are they? A creepy tale of stalking gone wrong that dredges up dread and electrified me once I discovered the full extent of what was happening. It takes the phrase “be mine” to a whole new level.
Hester J. Rook’s “The Sparrows in her Hair” – A woman patiently waits on the beach for someone in anticipation of his arrival. A searing poem that engages all your senses and quickens your pulse as you read it.
Kevin Lauderdale’s “James and the Gentry” – James receives a message to help a friend in need right away and finds he’s landed into a tangled situation in which he cannot extricate himself. Of course, this problem involves not one but two women and one of them is over a hundred years old (!). A magical and madcap English comedy that induces giggles and laughs as James falls head over heels (but not necessarily in love) and falls in deep over his head into you know what.
Jessica West’s “Hell Zoo: Valentines Day Exhibit” – Tiba is a tour guide for a special zoo where the exhibits are those whose souls are tortured over and over. As we meet the inhabitants of those enclosures, we learn what led them to their present fate and why they are so dangerous. The anecdotes for each these despondent souls is blistering, brutal and downright cruel. But their stories and the storytelling are both clever and pathologically demented in all the best of ways, successfully enveloping you in the tragedy of each soul we meet. By the time we reach the end, we’re mentally spent and our mood becomes depressed, feeling broken-hearted with what we just read.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “Angel’s Catch” – Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. But this is no ordinary fairy tale and the reasons they do this is for water which could save their village. As they reach the pool of water, secrets are revealed and it all suspensefully culminates into a terrifying finale that holds your heart hostage. This simple fairy tale is significantly and delightfully darkened, swerving into unanticipated directions while entrancing me the whole time with its twist on the traditional tale.
Jason Lavelle’s “Lot 187” – Zane is a talented tattoo artist using a new batch of unique hand-made ink. He has several different customers, each of whom has an unusual and in some cases, tragic, story to tell. But after getting new tattoos, all their lives are transformed, some in good ways and some, not so much! This is an involving and profoundly moving tale of how their personal stories all are impacted by this in surprising ways, especially with how their tales intertwine. Each customer and their experience feels deeply personal, and especially Zane’s story most of all. The emotional depth of each character's problems and emotional dilemmas here choked me up.
P.K. Tyler’s “Devour” – Amina is a wife hospitalized with a strange disease from a raging pandemic that is eating her from the inside out. As her husband Eric helplessly looks on, we learn the history of their romance and then Amina experiences a strange transformation. What is going on here?!? The author really excels at making you feel gross about what it feels like to be trapped inside your own skin, trying to escape it. You experience this debilitating virus through all five of your senses and cannot help but wonder what it’s like to be in this situation. And I even felt a little… ravenous after reading it too. 😉
Jessica West’s “No One Will Believe You” – Charlotte is dead, her life a never-ending horror with her sexually abusive father, Clay. So when a spirit offers to help her get her revenge and help collect Clay’s soul to bring it to hell, how will Charlotte respond? How the rest of the story plays out is part of the ghastly yet gleeful payback in this story. To call this a haunted tale would be to only scratch the surface of its complexity and intense range of emotions it provokes. The author never shies away from showing the darkness in human souls in her stories and really illustrates it superbly here.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Vulture Bus” – Quinn and Max are a crew of a transplant ambulance, called in to harvest the organs of a middle-aged woman who died in an apartment building. As they reach her floor, they assess the situation. But to Quinn, there’s more going on here than meets the eye. The surprises here floored me and where I initially thought the story was going to go, it went into an unexpected direction instead and I loved what happened next. One of the many things I enjoy about this author is his ability to paint a picture, illustrate characters thoroughly and throw them into a situation that completely holds your attention. This tale is an excellent demonstration of those skills.
Nathan M. Beauchamp’s “Linya Lost in Space Time” – Linya falls through the oceans of time, with waves sweeping her backward and forwards from one random time period to the next. She experiences memories of a man who seems familiar to her but she cannot identify him. Who is he? It tears your heart out as you realize the full extent of what’s happening and how it came to be. It’s a profound and powerful tale of what’s truly important in Linya’s life as she copes with the struggle of her existence.
Christopher J. Valin’s “Phone Home” – Todd’s having a rough day. Fired from his job, he volunteers for a scientific experiment for the money… and meets himself. Repeatedly. How is this even happening? This comedic and involving tale demonstrates how something goes awry and multiple versions of Todd try to solve an impossible problem! It expertly ratchets up the tension while making me chortle uncontrollably, expertly balancing between the two extremes. It’s so zany, it keeps the train barely under control as it rockets down the tracks towards its unpredictable conclusion, holding my attention throughout.
Paul K. Swardstrom’s “Wrench” – Rosie is living multiple lives, switching from one to another in short bursts. So, who is this man who claims to know her, apologizing each time they meet? A mysterious and memorable premise about time travel gone wrong that is gripping with a truly unpredictable ending.
Ernie Howard’s “Gramps” – When Tate gets a call that his grandfather is dying, he goes to see him. Not especially close, Tate wonders what it’s all about. But his grandfather, experiencing dementia, has one final request. What follows is a suspenseful tale about close calls and the love a grandfather has for his grandson. It’s a moving story that hits you with an emotional gut punch when you realize what it’s all about. I couldn’t help but get choked up as the storytelling enveloped me when I learned what was at stake.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “Lorem Tempus” – Renton is a Tempus Agent, trying to see a vision of the future using a spiritual method of meditation. When he sees something disturbing, how will he prevent this future from coming to pass? Compelling secrets are revealed in a story that takes you on an immersive and innovative journey through the mind and through time using discipline and technology. It also hints at a very captivating larger world (to be explored further in the author’s novel Spectral Shift: A Spectral Worlds Novel (Volume 1)) while telling a complete story unto itself. It’s a mind-tripping and enthralling experience in a world I want to read more about.
Eamon Ambrose’s “Zero Hour” – A cyborg crawls over an apocalyptic landscape, the last living human in a world dominated by machines. Told from a unique and searing point of view, we’re taken on a journey to reach the Tower. But why must they go there and what will they find? Surprising secrets are revealed as the reader is deeply immersed into this story with each tired footfall and ache in our bodies. The action sequences are riveting and the final twists are unexpected, awesome, horrific and exciting all at the same time, packing an emotional wallop by the time you reach the end.
After reading these tales of love, darkness and time travel, Each one kept me riveted and brought me to new worlds of strange and odd occurrences that compelled me to keep reading. Each one also created an enrapturing story imbued with strong characters filled with bold storytelling that were emotionally gripping, stirring up your feelings as you read them.