Upon first hearing about the contribution process and then the October release of SHADOW BOX (edited by Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Angela Challis), I was excited, but did not pursue the details involving this project to any great extent. The only hints I had were a glowering, Chucky-esque logo figure that was a palate warmer for its forthcoming release. This turned out to be overtly prudent and, in the end , satisfactory. Not learning the magician's tricks gave the overall SHADOW BOX experience more taste and substance.
And make no mistake: substance abounds here, ladies and gentlemen. What we have received is a totally original, well-crafted masterpiece for the masses. The sheer volume of seventy slices of dark flash fiction and artwork does not hinder but only enhances it as a fusion of these elements into a digital advent. The journey is unique, filled with bridges and by-ways, turnpikes and intersections that ultimately lead to a kind of nirvana in Hell.
'Come play with me' a sinister-looking doll asks the reader while a malign child caterwauls in the background. It's as fitting a start as any , and even prompted a panicked response from another person who was in the room with me. Effects with sound are short, but , if turned up loud enough , are very effective at grabbing your attention. Some of my favorites in the first half include: Coming Home by Rick Kennett; this is very short, but a doozy. Entwined by Chris Barnes , a piece with a gothic flavor. Changing by Susan Wardle is charged with an erotic, almost incestuous feel. And Clown Face by Daniel Slaten is accompanied by one of the best pieces of art entitled 'Smile'. The editor, Shane, leaves us feeling very uneasy with the summer sun with a trinity of flash (in the first half) where blood reigns on the beach.
By this stage we've been given the gift one ultimately wants when reading the genre: a cold comfort entwined with the otherness of the otherworldly; a convergence of emotions that see feelings of escape latticed with viewing the world differently. For this reviewer, flash has often held ambiguous thoughts, with some other publications showcasing feeble efforts that have me feeling utterly perplexed. This is not the case with SHADOW BOX; each story, effectively, was easy to comprehend. And I have a new-found respect for this kind of author. Within only a few short lines of stanza their talent is apparent.
In the second half, a small list of the stories to grab my attention were: The Capture Diamonds by Karron Warren , within such a limited space, words such as meat-eater, amputate, and human ash are not wasted at all. Light by Christian Girard encompasses a species of prose I haven't quite encountered before. For gross-out factor, consult Smooth Trajectory by Esteban Silvani. And for ghost factor, the dead have a voice in Listen by Horrorscope's own Stephanie Gunn.
By and large, SHADOW BOX has everything on show. From award winning authors to the up and coming published, this e-anthology is a must-have for all fans of dark literature. And if this isn't enough, all profits will benefit charity and The Australian Horror Writers Association. In 2006, we are privileged enough to have a sequel. Entitled, BLACK BOX, the horror community awaits with baited breath . . .