The Strange Thing We Become And Other Dark Tales: Eric LaRocca
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Having already blessed the world with two effective horror novellas in Starving Ghosts in Every Thread and Things have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, as well as poetry in Fanged Dandelion, Eric LaRocca is back to thoroughly unsettle you with this collection of eight short stories.
This is one of those books where just reading the story titles suggests that you’re in for a good old spooky time. They’re intriguing enough in their own right, I felt like a kid on Xmas looking at the wrapping paper and imagining what kind of terrifying delights might be in store.
Only it’s not just terror waiting for you as you open these pages; it’s open, raw humanity tinged with sadness. This is horror in all its many forms, from the deep sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you realise a situation is hopeless, to more visceral, violent imagery as fantasies of death and revenge are revealed. Some stories push you right to the edge, promising unspeakable acts before pulling you back from the precipice for a moment, then shoving you right back towards it. One moment you might be repulsed by revelations only to be troubled on a more psychological level a page or two later. And while the supernatural sometimes suggests itself, it never really takes centre stage.
That’s a pretty long-winded way of me saying there’s something for all tastes here, only it’s more complicated than that. Most of these stories left me constantly on edge, never sure which way each tale might twist as they touch on themes and subjects such as cancer in the family, the uncertainty that comes with being a teenager, dangerous obsessions, commitment, belonging, homophobia, love and loss. It’s so human it hurts, and you feel every single moment of pain, physical or emotional, like a hammer to your hand. Characters are often made to make unimaginably difficult choices, or find themselves driven to do things they don’t want to, to the point where if you’re not moved to tears, you’re trembling with tension or simply just creeped out. You’re going to be put through the emotional wringer in other words, to the point where you might want to take a break between stories for the sake of your nerves.
If you’re already a fan of LaRocca then you’ll find similarities to his other works here, some common threads in terms of style and imagery, though there are still surprises in store. For the uninitiated, this serves as an excellent introduction to the haunting imagery, sudden shocks and creeping unease which the author delivers so well. In short, this is an essential collection for horror fans.
The Strange Thing We Become And Other Dark Tales
The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales collects eight stories of literary dark fiction. Tense and terrifying, these masterful stories by Eric LaRocca explore the shadow side of love.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on Twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.