Welcome back to the Spooky Book Club! I can’t say for sure if we’ll keep up with the official name, but hopefully you’re along for the ride with us regardless of whatever name we are going by! While last week we looked at a story that chilled us to the core with its unrelenting realism, we’re taking a chance this week to switch gears to something a something little more crazy. Paranormal, or frankly, just unrealistic horror favors my comfort level a little more than harsh reality, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be leaping out of my chair the moment the creep factor starts setting in. The days are getting shorter, and my comfort level is shrinking right along side of them. Keep the nite lite handy, because I’m heading back into the abyss!
The Havoc Tree by Layden Robinson is a collection of short stories that by its own admission are promising to be a bit absurd. Produced under the “influence of strong drink and fine smoky treats” Robinson carves out ten stories of varying themes and ideas in the genre of paranormal horror. The stories are all robust in length, however the concepts themselves may not be more than a simple offering of a single basic idea. Some are genuinely frightening, such as battling a bloodthirsty murderer on the cusp of damnation itself. Others add a bit of comedy to the mix, such as a pair of Southie Boston massholes getting what they deserve from a frightening spider mistress. Split the difference and there’s even some spooky erotica to shake things up as well. I can’t imagine you’ll ever find yourself complacent while exploring the world contained within this collection.
The setup and payoff (if applicable) of each story will vary, and at times your brain may need to play catch up with the author’s personal idea for the next new tale. While maybe a slight challenge at first, the variety keeps things from going stale and your mind will be fresh due to the requirement of comprehension. Simultaneously, despite the strength of story, you’ll never be so far behind that you won’t appreciate the message. Feel free to just turn down the mood switch on your brain and go on a spooky adventure. While I’m genuinely entertained, I feel that I’m probably missing something from some of the stories, and that’s probably more on me as the reader. The absurdity of some of the moments give the feeling of outsider poetry, and that’s in both the good and bad ways. While there’s going to be a small tinge of FOMO to a particular story’s message, the prospect of there being more to uncover helps for re-reads and maybe even some group discussion. I’ve never heard of an obscure/absurd themed in person Book Club, but I’ll take that over a discussion of Bridget Jones’ Diary any day of the week.
Verdict: The Havoc Tree by Layden Robinson is fascinating batch of short stories that serve as a veritable Las Vegas buffet of options within the horror/paranormal genre. Pure human horror, shapeshifting terror, and the intrigues of the human mind will keep the reader turning pages even if certain metrics of these tales may fly over your head. A personal fancy of mine was the horror erotica elements that added a new sensation to a long examined passion of this one particular reviewer. The collection doesn’t demand too much of the reader, and the best experience can had be when you simply let loose and enjoy the ride. Next time your fellow intellectuals gather around the campfire and kill a bottle or three of whiskey, you can bet with this book in tow you’ll have the fresh spooky yarns that’ll make you the group’s chief raconteur for years to come.
Special thanks to Layden Robinson for providing a review copy of The Havoc Tree to TehBen.com. All thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Author’s Twitter: @LaydenRobinson
Purchase Link: Amazon