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Featuring two substantial short stories by two authors at the top of their game, “Hacked in Two” is a perfectly executed, entertaining read.

What is better than reading a book by one of your favorite authors? Reading a book featuring TWO of your favorite authors, naturally!

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced review copy of Hacked in Two in exchange for an honest review. And I was pretty stoked for the stories within just based on the excellent cover alone.

Yeah, yeah, we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover. But we all do it. So cut me some slack. Or, to hew closer to the book in question…hack me some slack!

Hacked in Two features a short story apiece from Daemon Manx and James G. Carlson, two authors who came up through the indie-horror trenches together.

They both, quite ironically, also forged very similar paths in their literary ascension, creating their own publishing houses. Mr. Carlson started Gloom House, and Daemon established Last Waltz. And while both imprints are attracting talent from across the indie scene, gradually filling out their stable of published works, Mr. Carlson and Mr. Manx are still, first and foremost, gifted authors.

Neither of them is content to rest on their laurels.

Thus, Hacked in Two was born.

Weighing in at 180 pages and published on the Gloom House imprint, these are some meaty short stories.

Author James G. Carlson

As with all of my reviews, I will attempt to keep spoilers to a minimum. I believe books are more enjoyable when going in as blind as possible. I also respect the effort that writers put into their works and therefore want to minimize preconceived notions altogether if possible.

Mr. Carlson’s tale Red Falls, the first story in the collection, is the longer of the two offerings.

As I have learned from previous experience with his tales, Mr. Carlson likes to take tropes and concepts from established horror conventions and combine them into something new. Red Falls is no different, bringing together snippets of the “city slickers vs. country folk” and creature feature genres, stitching them together into a cohesive and nasty whole.

What I really appreciated about RED FALLS, and really all of James G. Carlson’s works in general, is that regardless of how depraved or disgusting his subject matter might be, there is an elegance to his writing that elevates the material.

There is nothing wrong with extreme horror (more on that later), but many of the authors in that genre tend for a more explosive writing style, maximizing the shock they deliver. While many of the events that transpire in Red Falls are shocking, they are professionally and pristinely delivered, resulting in a polished package.

I have mentioned before in reviews how a little bit of restraint goes a long way. The fact that Mr. Carlson beautifully narrates the ugliness that transpires by showing just that little bit of restraint speaks to what a consummate professional he is.

Mr. Manx’s tale Deacon is both everything and nothing that I expected a Daemon Manx tale to be.

Author Daemon Manx

What begins as a (seemingly) extreme-horror zombie tale quickly veers WILDLY in a different direction entirely.

From the various pieces I have read from Daemon in the past, I can unequivocally state that, more so than any other author I have read, many of his tales have a very personal bent. And that is one of the most appealing things for me; getting to know the author through his writing.

With Deacon, however, Mr. Manx has given us the most unfiltered glimpse into his life yet. But instead of adding additional color to the story, the glimpses into Daemon’s life ARE the story.

To go much more into why would be venturing heavily into spoiler territory. Needless to say, the lines between author and creation blur in the most exciting and visceral of ways. And in doing so, Daemon asks the fundamental question for an author; do we rule the stories we create, or do they rule us?

From my own experiences with my own creations, I can attest that it’s a constant tug-of-war between the two. And Daemon explores that tug-of-war in a grand fashion with Deacon.

I also love that he tackles the nature of extreme horror (from his perspective, at least) head-on and without pulling punches. Is it a road he wants to go down? Is it a road he SHOULD go down? What does it say about him if he does or doesn’t?

DEACON is heady stuff through and through. The kind of stuff that separates an author from a writer.

Hacked in Two

Plus, I just love Daemon’s use of humor in his tales. Some of it is ironic, and some of it is raunchy, but it all enhances the story.

Nitpicks are few and VERY far between. I only noticed a couple of instances of misspellings or word repetition. Outside of that, I have no complaints.

The stories were exactly as long as they needed to be. The writing, as expected, was top-notch. The pacing was perfect. And neither ends with a traditional bow tied neatly around them, which this reviewer greatly appreciated.

Providing two great stories for one low price, picking up Hacked in Two is a no-brainer for any lover of horror. I was entertained from start to finish, becoming more of a fan of both Mr. Carslon & Mr. Manx in the process.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5

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