Broken on the Inside is the sixth volume in Black Shuck Books Shadows series. Shadows bring you a pocket-sized sample of the best in modern horror previously featuring talent such as Paul Kane, Joseph D’Lacey, Thana Niveau & Gary Fry. Volume six introduces Phil Sloman, the author of the popular British Fantasy Award nominated Becoming David.
Kendall Reviews has been fortunate enough to feature Phil a couple of times before, the first time was to discuss the horror novels that made Phil uncomfortable, the second was a fantastic piece on writing short stories. Broken on the Inside is printed proof that this article is gold for any author looking for advice on the art writing a short story.
Broken on the Inside features five shorts that examine the fragility of the mind. These are powerful, often thought-provoking tales featuring sublime horrors and brilliant characterisation. The collection shares its title with the first story in the book, a previously unpublished tale which, for me, was simply brilliant. Imagine Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror at its finest! Kira feels constantly unwell, the GP is unable to help her. Determined to get her life back in order she visits Dr Secombe who has what appears to be a miracle cure. Kira’s initial euphoria is incredibly well written as is her slow descent into sublime darkness leading to an ending that left me genuinely shocked yet smiling at how clever Sloman has been. Tale two is called Discomfort Food, a short that shows the author is not afraid to mix (dark) humour with very dark subject matter. Rebecca works in a fast food restaurant and has a secret that only the food knows about. Again proving Sloman is an expert at character building ,Rebecca is a glorious lead, she endures so much with her story ending in a heart wrenching, and surprising, finale. The Man Who Fed Foxes covers a series of topics from grief, depression and anxiety. Paul Wilson is a lead you genuinely feel for. The horrors here are very real and show the psychological deterioration of a man that’s broken, horribly broken. The imagery of the finale will stick with me for a long time. There Was An Old Man is much more obvious in its horror yet still offers the excellent description of a man, John Hinklow, slowly starting to fracture after he swallows a fly. Beautifully descriptive, this is a nasty filth ridden tale that veers into body horror territory and offers a strong Tales Of The Unexpected vibe. The final story Virtually Famous is a well written tale where reality and fiction blurs to a point where you question whats real. Chet Tyler used to be a big star, he has a chance to reignite his fame by featuring in his very own virtual reality game. The trouble is he can see people kill him in-game again and again, in ever more inventive and disturbing ways. Chet decides to enter his own game world. This is another strong tale, but felt out-of-place in this collection, it was to me, too much of a genre shift from the previous four tales. With its Sci-Fi leanings and being set in the US it felt at odds with the other tales which all had a lovely feeling of suburbia, I could picture them all taking place in English houses with the kettle having just boiled and freshly cut sandwiches on the table.
Phil Sloman is unquestionably a talent, someone I definitely want to read more of. Sloman has a writing style that leaps off the page and offers near perfect characterisation, Broken on the Inside is a superb collection. Five excellent shorts that evoke all sorts of emotions. For a book with such dark, and serious, subject matter it’s not a heavy read in the slightest. It’s so painfully close to perfect it makes me feel a little Broken on the Inside to offer this brilliant little book…
Star Rating (out of 5): 4****
This book can be bought for only £5! Please pick up a copy, read it and leave a review. I’d love to hear from you after you’ve read it!