Monster Double Feature: Mark Cassell
Reviewed By Steve Stred
When it comes to the “double feature” we all always think of baseball or movies, but I’m seeing more and more authors start to let these out to the world – two stories that pair well together and can be great starting points for new fans, but also cool additions to the libraries of long time fans.
I haven’t read much of Mark Cassell’s work, admittedly, but the few short stories I’ve read of his have all been really fun reads. So, when I saw his next release up for review in the KR group chat – a “double feature” of monster stories, I readily scooped it up.
Story #1 – River of Nine Tails
The first story in this double bill is a doozy. Set along the river banks of the Mekong River Delta, we are introduced to a male tourist visiting this exotic world. He’s connected with another solo traveller and the two of them are on a small boat, when something rears up and attacks them from the murky waters below.
What I liked: Cassell uses the location fantastically in this story. The two travellers are scared of the riverbank, of the water, but also of treading too far off from the river’s edge for fear of being lost in the forest beyond. This fear continues as things take a turn and I loved the descriptions Cassell gave of the thing that attacked the boat, but also as our story progresses, the grotesque imagery we are ruthlessly subjected to near the end. Fantastic stuff.
What I didn’t like: This story hummed along, and the only thing that kind of stuck with me that I would’ve wanted a tad different was the attack at the beginning came really quickly in the story, which meant we didn’t get much character development or interaction before the first bit of action. A minor thing for me, but I was shocked at just how quick the boat was rocked.
Story #2 Reanimation Channel
In the second story of the double feature, we follow a man who arrives at his apartment complex, only to find his neighbor has been brutally murdered. On his computer screen is a live feed of something rushing through the night.
What I liked: Holy heck, if there is a story idea I love, it’s the one where people find a website or get invited to a youtube page or dark web site or whatever and things take a turn. Not sure why it gets me, maybe my years of loving those ridiculous ‘Top 10’ style videos, but these always intrigue me. Cassell created a really unique ‘channel’ and I loved how it sucked the man into watching it and interacting with it, even when he knew better and knew he needed to call the police. The “thing” that is described in this story is utterly amazing and will make readers wish and hope for this creature to be featured elsewhere. As a first time reader of Cassell, I honestly can’t tell you if this is related to any of his other works, but I sure hope so. If not – MARK, GET ON IT!
What I didn’t like: Two things really got me on this one. The first was length. I think this thing would’ve been stunning if it could have breathed a bit and been longer. I suspect with this having been already released, that a word count was at play here, but this would make for a truly amazing novel. The second was a minor detail that I still don’t comprehend. Roughly halfway through this story, as the main character is dealing with some horrific things happening, he suddenly becomes fixated on getting his parcel that had been delivered to the address. Even lamenting that the contents were wrong. I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be an attempt at levity or humor, but it struck me as odd.
Why you should buy this: Mark Cassell has paired two fantastic stories together for this release and as I mentioned before, this would be a welcome starter point for new fans as well as a worthy addition for long time readers. Cassell can certainly create dark worlds and even darker creatures and these two stories really had my interest the entire time. I’ll definitely be reading more of Mark’s work after this.
Monster Double Feature: Mark Cassell
From the author of the Shadow Fabric mythos comes this 78-page chapbook featuring two stories.
A British traveller desperate to escape his past finds himself at the heart of a Vietnamese legend, and learns why the Mekong Delta is known as “River of Nine Tails.” And a regular parcel collection from a neighbour becomes a descent into terror through the online game, “Reanimation Channel.”
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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