REVIEW: “Frostbite” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Frostbite”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 10-16 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The opening scene is of a man driving along a deserted winter highway early in the morning, and Walsh uses few words to effectively evoke that sense of emptiness and desolation and cold. But as the man drives along, it becomes increasingly clear that he is not as alone as he thinks — or hopes — and that no amount of turning up the radiator will keep out the cold.

This story hit a sweet spot for me — it was short enough to be a quick fix before bedtime, but long enough to really sink my teeth into — and the carefully placed miniature illustrations contributed nicely to the feeling of foreboding that grew with the story.

REVIEW: “In the Pipes Below” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “In the Pipes Below”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 5-8 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Something is lurking in the pipes. The narrator can’t quite come out and say what it is, can’t even name it, merely calling it it. It slithers out of drains, and hides in toilets, and it is drawn to places where the scent of sweat is heavy.

That’s one problem with it. The other is that no one other than the narrator seems to know that it exists. That doesn’t make it any less fiercesome — and indeed perhaps makes it even more! For how can one escape something that maybe isn’t even there?

This is a straight-up creepy-crawly horror story, ending on a “what if” cliff edge. I didn’t find it particularly scary myself, but for anyone who has their own fears of what lies in the pipes below, this would probably be quite an unsettling story to read.

REVIEW: “Toothache” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Toothache”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 30-32 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: This story is not for those who dislike dentists!

I’m not someone who dislike dentists (I worshipped my childhood dentist, who pulled 11 of my teeth and yet I still always looked forward to seeing him!), which means that I whole-heartedly enjoyed this story of someone waiting in the dentist’s to have an aching tooth removed. It was one part horror and one part humor and the two parts fed into each other beautifully. Gold star to Walsh for this one!

REVIEW: “I Wake Up in Strange Places” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “I Wake Up In Strange Places”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 46-50 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

When it came time to settle down and read a story before bed, I picked this one because of its excellent title. It’s the sort of title that clearly has a story behind it, begging to be told, and yet the reader has no idea what kind of story it will be.

The story opens on the unnamed narrator awaking yet again in a strange place, and follows what happens after. It is remarkably factual: As a reader, I get told what happens, but not how or why. And even some of the what questions remain unanswered, as even the narrator themself doesn’t know the answer. In the end, I felt the story lacked resolution: Without the background hows and whys, I didn’t care enough about the narrator for the whats to matter.

REVIEW: “Giving In” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Giving In”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 24-26 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Suicide.

This brief story starts off dark and tremendously sad — Christmas night, a man contemplating suicide, awash with memories of committing his senile mother to care, how in the aftermath he lost not only his mother but his wife and son, too. The thread that runs through all the events and emotions, past and present, is a music box that once played on the man’s mother’s dresser, and which he hoped would one day play for his son. In the end, the song of the music box is, I think, intended to leave the reader with a sense of hope, but I’m not sure how successfully it did so: I just felt rather down after finishing it.

REVIEW: “Whispering Waters” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Whispering Waters”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 9 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story — at one page long — is over and done with before it even gets started. It was the story I started off with, and it probably wasn’t the best choice for me; it was too short to be satisfying, and I find the 2nd-person narration grating. However, the final line went a long way to turning around my initial impressions.

(Originally published in Apex Magazine 66).

REVIEW: Little Creepers by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, Little Creepers, (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This year, SFFReviews participated in #RevPit on twitter for the first time — where authors promote their books for review and reviewers indicate which books they’d be interested in reviewing — and that’s how we received a copy of Jessica Walsh’s short collection of horror stories. Two of the stories, “Whispering Waters” and “Lurking Status”, had previously been published, but the rest are new. Interspersed throughout the tales are interesting illustrations which lend a new dimension to the stories.

It is an eclectic collection, ranging from the single-page almost flash-fic story “And Then There Were One Hundred and Twenty-Eight” to the nearly-novellette 43-page story “My Life”. As a result, I read the stories out of order, rather than sequentially, so that I could pick a length that suited my reading desires at a given time. As is customary, we’ve listed the contents below (pretty much my only significant complaint is that I would’ve liked to have had a table of contents in the book itself!), and will review the stories individually and link the reviews back here as they are published:

To speak to the collection as a whole: I often struggle with where “horror” fits into SFFReviews. It certainly can fall under the umbrella of “speculative fiction”, especially in its psychological guises. Sometimes horror can be purely mundane, though; for instance, when it stems from physical violence and gore. It was hard to categorise these stories, some of which were definitely on the speculative end of things, while others (like “Giving In”) were so mundane as to be merely depressing rather than horrible. Good speculative horror that is well done I truly enjoy, and that’s what keeps me dipping back into the horror genre time and time again. In this collection, some of the stories lived up to my hopes and satisfied my desires; but unfortunately only some.