“Tension of a Coming Storm” delivers twenty tales of sickos, strangeness, and suburban soul-searching for a brilliantly curated collection.
A new author to welcome into my ever-increasing “yes, please, and thank you” stable? I’ve said it before (and likely will again), but the indie scene is near bursting at the seams with fresh ideas, fantastic prose, and hidden talent… many of which rival anything being released by the big-name publishers. Straight up: if you’re not reading indie, you’re missing out!
And, as I have just recently discovered, I need to add Mr. Ludens to my watch list. This guy has the talent to spare, in addition to seeming like a genuinely down-to-earth sort of chap, both of which I respect and appreciate.
I was given an ARC of Tension of a Coming Storm by Andrea Thomas, owner/editor of Dark Owl Publishing (love that name!), in exchange for an honest review. Considering that this request was based on some of the other reviews I posted on Facebook, and seeing as how Andrea seems to be the coolest person ever, I felt it both a privilege and an honor to tackle something for her.
If this is indicative of the overall quality that Dark Owl promotes, then they are absolutely a publishing house to follow.
And…holy damn…that cover! It’s imminently fitting for both mood and motif. Some authors out there think a cover isn’t that important. But trust me, as a reader and a writer, I can assure you it matters and is more than window dressing. Of course, it’s what’s inside that really matters. So, let’s get into it.
Tension of a Coming Storm is a collection of shorts by Adrian Ludens, a horror aficionado hailing from South Dakota.
Twenty tales are featured, half of which have been previously published in other anthologies, while the remaining half are brand-new creations exclusive to this compendium. The entire book clocks in at around 63,000 words, and there’s a little something for everyone.
Don’t like the current tale? Not to worry…the next one might blow your socks off. And if you’re not wearing socks, then I guess your feet are getting blown off. Which sounds atrocious; so, in the interest of literary well-being, everyone read with socks on. Safety first!
Do you know how most albums (regardless of genre) seem to start out with the best tracks first, and then by the halfway point, the songs start to become less and less engaging? Well, the opposite is true here.
The first few tales in Tension of a Coming Storm, while undeniably good, weren’t quite as impactful as I had hoped for. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the abattoir, and by the time I finished the fifth tale, I was all in.
Adrian’s stories just kept getting better and better, picking up speed like a runaway semi.
One of the great triumphs of this book is how it explores non-traditional monsters. Yes, the human beast is still the most terrifying creature of all. But Mr. Ludens succeeds in reaching outside of the established tropes and expectations to conjure up some truly original beasties.
Horror stories primarily serve to both magnify and evaluate the human condition in a frequently gory fashion. That holds true here as well, but the ways in which he goes about it are novel and refreshing. Plus, I honestly cannot recall reading another single-author collection featuring this much diversity.
Third-person POV, first-person, speculative tales, revenge thrillers, run-ins with historical figures, and even transcripts from an ill-fated Apollo moon landing.Adrian Ludens' exceptional TENSION OF A COMING STORM short story collection is a veritable smorgasbord of options and offerings. Click To Tweet
And, it must be said, some of these tales are downright brutal. Not that those are the only types of stories to be found; a few are quite innocuous and/or introspective. But there are times when Tension of a Coming Storm is a nasty customer. The kind of wicked little book that Michael Myers might leaf through while waiting on Laurie Strode or that Buffalo Bill would peruse in between hose-enforced lotion treatments.
Have you ever wondered which tomes would be found on a serial killer’s bookshelf? A dog-eared copy of Tension of a Coming Storm certainly ought to be counted among them.
There are too many stories to give full individual feedback, so I will focus on the ones I considered the crème de la crème.
The Value of a Dollar is one of several tales with an interesting denouement. Not quite horror, but most certainly a gut punch.
I’m unsure if Blind Faith takes place in our history or some alternate reality a la Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, but it doesn’t matter. It’s just a cool little fantasy tale about old gods and the sacrifices they require.
Wendigo, Going, Gone is a short & sweet little ditty about supernatural creatures, their day jobs, and quite possibly the end of the world.
Animate Objects is my favorite of the bunch. Certainly not scary, but just a completely unique riff on the nature of hauntings. I would love to see this particular concept expanded upon.
Try to Remember is a delightfully morbid take on memory loss, with a hint of meanness sprinkled over the top as a garnish.
Hollow is a vampire-like tale of a different variety. I loved the whole concept of this one, and it is another idea that could easily be expanded upon.
Time to Say Goodbye offers a fantastic and creepy rumination on loss with LGBTQ+ characters (there are several instances of that here, much to my delight), featuring another great denouement.
Usually, at this stage of the review, I would talk about the nitpicks that my quality-control and OCD-focused brain uncovered during my time with the book. But I am delighted to say that there aren’t any! I daresay that this is one of the most successfully edited collections I’ve come across.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Adrian is one hell of a writer. He avoids word repetition like a champ and brings in some lesser-used descriptors from time to time, just because he can.
If you enjoy horror collections (and if you don’t, for shame!), then you really ought to check out Tension of a Coming Storm by Adrian Ludens. It covers a wide range of genres, emotions, and styles, and I’m sure just about anyone could find something they’d enjoy.
Just don’t forget the socks!