Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ghosts In a Desert World reviewed at Scary Minds.

Matthew Tait presents thirteen tales of the macabre with slight detours into fantasy for a change in pace. Ranging from tales of madness, though planet psycho, to the demons that haunt the dark places the Author presents his own view on what a horror collection should contain. Be prepared to be shocked, dial into some metaphysics, and to question religion as Tait delivers a diverse range of stories.

In case anyone is wondering no this isn't a collection of ghosts stories, the title refers to a theme that unites a number of independent tales. There are ghosts on desert worlds they just aren't what you think they are and don't take centre stage in an overt fashion.

Ready to open the covers and see what might be lurking there in the dark?


"He suddenly felt covered with fleas, ants, and a tsunami of maggots." - Car Crash Weather.

Ghosts in A Desert World arrived on my desk courtesy of an unpublished manuscript presented as a blog on the internet. See below for a link. Author Matthew Tait has self published via the web in order to get his tales out there. In all honesty I would get in and read them sooner rather than later, at some stage a Publisher is going to option the collection and force the web site off air. You read the collection like a normal blog, each story is a published article, though I must admit I copied and pasted everything into a single word document in order to write this review. Please note at the completion of this review the document will be deleted from my computer to avoid potential breaches of copyright. So let's get down to it.

The first point I jotted down in my review notes was that the collection needed a good editing. What you are reading I believe is a preliminary version of the finished work with at least one more Author edit required to get things ship shape and Bristol fashion. Whatever in the hell that means. Naturally since the collection hasn't at yet been published it also hasn't been at the tender mercy of an actual Editor, who would no doubt have red pen in hand marking up a few things. So what you end up reading is a pretty raw manuscript, which all adds to the fascination in my opinion. How often do you get the chance to read an Author's original take on a story before it's polished for final publication? The downside is of course the odd stumbling block in a few stories, no one gets it right the first time, and some typos heralding the normal grammatically foibles that a word processor's spell checker is going to miss. There's nothing that will drive an English teacher into fits of hysteria however, and lets face facts here a few published works make you wonder if the Editor of the work in question didn't knock the book off in an afternoon after a particular long lunch down the local pub. See some of Gabrielle Lord's early published novels for example.

Matthew Tait's style and composition should be readily accessible to most readers. Some of the more philosophical stories take a bit of nailing down, but overall you wont be re-reading paragraphs trying to decipher what the author has just stated. The stories flow naturally and nothing is left up in the air. Like any good horror writer Tait is laying the groundwork early in each story to lead naturally to that dark attic room where the screaming is coming from at the completion of the story. As stated previously there is the odd jarring moment in a few stories, but nothing a quick re-phrase isn't going to sort out toot sweet. In particular I liked the Author's handling of the blood work, I keep saying it and no one is listening, good horror writers have an inborn ability to limit their own prose without rubbing a readers nose in the visceral. Matthew Tait on the evidence in this collection is a good horror writer.

Tait's characters are pretty much your ordinary people, the folks that live next door, I'm excluding the serial killers and people influenced by the elder gods here. There's a slight hint however that the Author may have spent his formative years reading publications like Tales From The Crypt et al as a sizeable proportion of female characters are slightly over ripe and one step away from that inheritance by dubious means. And here we're not talking the sort of chick who would run a "Dark Crib" horror museum! Oh the bright side of the knife Tait can write a believable character, and here I am including the serial killers and people influence by the elder gods.

Strangely many of the tales included in Ghosts In A Desert World are set in the United States, though the characters in those tales are apt to use Down Under terminology and speech patterns. One of those quirks I guess of a manuscript still to be given a final spit shine before publication.

Highlights from the collection are Car Crash Weather that amongst other things raises the theme of a horror writer being made by childhood trauma, Terrica with not only a decent pun in the title but a pretty Laymonesque view of serial killing in rural U.S.A, Future's Kingdom: The King's Dome which presents hell on earth courtesy of a fallen angel, and The Chronicals of Trent Randell that promises to be an ongoing story arc that might very well rival the Dexter books.

Ghosts In A Desert World is certainly value for money, you can pop over to Ghosts In a Desert World and read it for free. Once again I would urge you to do that sooner rather than later, though for sure I'll be picking up the collection once it finds a publishing home. Matthew Tait has also put his novella Dark Meridian online so I'm looking forward to getting down and dirty with that in the near future, review to follow folks.

Thankyou so much, Jeff. If you haven't already, take a tour of, Jeff is doing a great job promoting the local stuff - you can tell he really cares about the scene ... and wants to see it flourish. 

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