Short Story Review: The Grey Woman (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Grey Woman (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic

Pages: 32 (162-193)

Thoughts:

Again, this was another short story that I just could not bring myself to finish and I honestly don’t know why. Originally published in 1865, this story is written in what is now considered to be old English. Most people nowadays may not like this kind of writing style, especially since it can take some time to decipher, but I found that for the most part it was much easier to understand than some of the previous short stories that I’ve read in this selection. The author even did a wonderful job varying the lengths of her sentences and paragraphs, steering away from the long winded passages that have made other stories dull and tedious to read. I will say though that it takes a while for the story to really go anywhere.

First few pages are spent with characters that you think will be the main ones, but then it turns out that they’re actually reading the story of The Grey Woman’s protagonist. So it’s a story about a story of a woman that’s being read aloud by other people that have no relation or connection to this woman−thrilling. From what I could tell, the first third of the story is setting up the style of storytelling and some background for our true main character. All of that is fine, if it didn’t take at least ten pages to do. And within the first ten pages you gain no insight as to what the story idea is, other than a mousy German woman unenthusiastically marrying a French dandy. I can’t really comment more on this story because I couldn’t go beyond the second third, and yes, it was divided into three parts.

Rating:

Did not finish. So I can’t actually give this a rating, but I can give a list as to why I couldn’t finish.

  • Could have been because it was just too damn long to be a short story. I believe that anything more than 25 pages in a novella, which means it’s a very long short story and could actually be published on its own.
  • After ten pages I’m still not completely sure what it going on. Is the story spooky? Is it a paranormal? Murder mystery? Thriller? I don’t know!
  • I tried, I really did to pick this one up so many times but I never did get very far before my attention span burned away.
  • Also, it’s a story about a few nondescript characters reading aloud the story of another woman, who’s written her tale for a specific person who was still a bit of a mystery ten pages in.

All in all, I had to give this one up so that I could continue on to the other stories. Maybe sometime later I’ll try tackling this one again.

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Short Story Review: The Murdered Cousin (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Murdered Cousin (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Sheridan Le Fanu

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic

Pages: 20 (142-161)

Thoughts:

For the life of me I could not finish this short story. It took me days to try to read it and I only got about six pages in before I just couldn’t do it anymore. At first I wanted to give myself a little break because while on their own not many of these stories scared me, but when mixed together they can be quite frightening. My brain decided to do just that and I had a rather disturbing nightmare that convinced me to take a short break from the short stories, especially since this one was titled The Murdered Cousin, which one can assume is scary. Honestly, I don’t know if it is a frightening tale because six pages in and the actually story is starting to unfold.

The first few pages of the story is nothing but backstory as to why the main character is going to the location of the story. It’s not that long of a back story, but the writing is so dreadfully convoluted that it takes forever for the author to say anything. I’ve read old stories and normally there’s a little bit of a grace period for me to switch from current writing to something older, but I just couldn’t do it with this one.

The sentence structure is terrible, while grammatically correct they can run on for lines and lines and lines at a time being separated by semicolons instead of periods. There’s no variance in the sentence structure either, their either long with multiple thoughts or they’re really short. The paragraphs are much the same way, really short or half the page. I think the longest sentence that I found was one of three in a single paragraph, it took up several lines and had about six or seven semicolons. That all bothers me because my brain just can’t stay focused on a style like that. Many times I found myself yawning and fighting sleep in the middle of the day while reading this.

Rating:

Did not finish. So I can’t actually give this a rating, but I can give a list as to why I couldn’t finish.

  • Impossibly long sentences, but actually grammatically correct, they just aren’t done anymore.
  • 6 pages in and we’re just getting to the start of the actual story.
  • 6 pages of nothing but back ground, but not a whole lot of back ground to cover, just a lot of thoughts that take up several pages.
  • After several pages I know more about the non-perspective main character than the main character telling the actually story.
  • There’s some intrigue to keep me reading, but not enough to endure the writing style.
  • Paragraphs are either short with impossibly long sentences or long with a mixture of short and long sentences.
  • Really just feels like word vomit sometimes.
  • I couldn’t stay awake enough to keep me invested in the story. A minute after putting it down, I would stop yawning and feel a hundred times more awake.

The biggest problem for me was the author’s writing style, it was not something I could enjoy even with a bit of effort. But if it’s something that doesn’t bother you I would give The Murdered Cousin a try, the idea and premise sounded interesting enough.

Anthology Review: The Screaming Skull (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Screaming Skull (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: F. Marion Crawford

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Paranormal

Pages:  18 (88-105)

Thoughts:

Oh dear Lord in heaven! I’m too embarrassed to admit how long it took me to read this one, but I stopped so many times to keep my nerves from fraying, and not from fright but boredom. Have you ever listened to a person on the phone and not be able to hear the caller on the other end? Sometimes that one side of the conversation that you can hear is interesting, but usually you grow bored of hearing just the one person’s commentary. That’s what this story was, a one-sided conversation between two old friends, unfortunately there was no telephone involved.

The Screaming Skull first reads like someone is narrating a story, but after a few paragraphs the main character switches from one story to another that has nothing to do with the first. It’s then that I realized that the main character is having a conversation to an old friend, one who hasn’t heard the first story but shares in the memories of the second. By this time the second character, the old friend, hasn’t noticeably said a word. A little later, I finally figured out that I’m reading a two person conversation but the author is only acknowledging what the second person is saying by the reactions of the main character. There’s no action. There’s no real setting set up, other than the few things mentioned in the nonstop dialogue. There’s no he said she said, not even a single quotation mark, unless retelling what someone else said. So it’s basically an eighteen page conversation between two old friends, but the author only bothers to record the one side. Sometimes you get the jist of what the friend says to the main character, but other times it’s hard to tell if the friend spoke at all. While no action is described, it is narrated by the main character as he tells his friend exactly what he’s doing or has done since leaving the room. The entire story isn’t a nonstop conversation, towards the end it does shift but it’s so sudden that’s a little disorienting and it cuts the story off abruptly.

Rating:

2/5

The overall idea of The Screaming Skull was extremely interesting and at times chilling.

However, I hate how the author told the story. I normally don’t enjoy dialogue focused stories, especially if that’s the only thing driving the plot. It’s a shame I couldn’t like this story more because the concept is still quite original! The Screaming Skull would probably be a lot better and scarier if done as a play or some other visual media. Honestly, I don’t know who I would recommend this to…

Anthology Review: The Dead Smile (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Dead Smile (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: F. Marion Crawford

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Paranormal

Pages:  13 (75-87)

Thoughts:

Oh wow…so this one put my imagination to good use to scare me a little witless. There’s no gore in this story. Nowhere does it describe bloody scenes, decapitation, or dismemberment; the only disturbing things described are the conditions of corpses and the frightening ‘dead smile’. And it is that smile that my mind recreated to frighten me!

This story was nothing like I was expecting and it had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The imagery was beautifully done, nothing to elaborate, just enough to get the point across and the image into your mind. While originally published in 1899, The Dead Smile does not quite read like it’s over a century old. Some of the words and phrasing show its true age, but overall the story does not appear to have been weathered by time. In fact, if I had not read the author’s bibliography in the back I wouldn’t have realized how old it was!

Crawford’s writing is different than other authors that I’ve read from that time. He knows when to be poetic with his details and when to be simple and straightforward. He focuses on action and dialogue to keep the readers going, to keep them hooked until the end, but he draws out the passages when tension is high to try and force the reader to feel the same. And he uses just enough information to keep the readers wanting more, reading until the very last page. It might have been one of the longer short stories so far, but it sure didn’t feel like it!

Rating:

The Dead Smile was a fantastic short story with an intriguing concept. The most chilling aspect of the story is the imagery that Crawford use to invoke the ‘death smile’ in your mind. Every time the smile appear on the page it appeared in my mind and made me shiver. Again, the writing was fantastic and almost timeless, which I haven’t found a lot of recently. My biggest complaint is that it appears that the editor fell asleep on the job. Why? Because there were weird periods in the middle of sentences or breaking up words, one place even had a random 4 when it should’ve been a t. The transcription mistakes were so weird that it took me out of the story just a little bit. Overall, The Dead Smile was a wonderfully chilling read and I would recommend it to anyone who may be interested, the language is easy enough to follow for almost anyone.

4/5

Anthology Review: The Watcher by the Threshold (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Watcher by the Threshold (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: John Buchan

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic

Pages:  12 (36-47)

Thoughts:

I have to say that I was a little disappointed with The Watcher by the Threshold. It was really hard for me to get into the story and I never really did. It didn’t help that there’s what I assume to be a typo in the first sentence, which claimed the story was set in the year 189. At first, I thought nothing of it but then how the author started describing the scenery, the architecture, clothing, etc. didn’t really fit with the timeline. I kept pausing, stepping away from the story, to try and make sense of what was going on, and it wasn’t until the mention of a watch that I decided that the story was set in the late 1800s. I’ve tried finding info on the short story, but have found absolutely nothing to help me, so by the time I figured out the setting a lot of my interest in the story was lost.

I also kept being pulled from the story because of its length. The Watcher by the Threshold is told through the first person perspective of a lawyer character, and he goes through passages of long-winded descriptions, thoughts, and opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of long-winded fantasies and the like, but when it’s a short story about a character we know next to nothing about I find the long thoughtful passages to be quite tedious to read. In fact, there may have been a few times in which I dosed off while reading this short story.

Rating:

2/5

As much as I like older stories, this one just really wasn’t for me. While the writing was beautiful, it was often tedious to read and follow. It also didn’t help that I didn’t really care for the voice of the main character, so his constant internal complaints about his surroundings just grated on my nerves. The long passages made for a slow pace that really didn’t change in speed, and the ending fell short of any impressionable impact. The Watcher by the Threshold wasn’t very scary, I was curious as to what was wrong with one of the characters, but it was never really made clear. The story was slightly disturbing, but the feeling didn’t last long. I’m sure there are classic literature buffs that would love this story, but I was not a fan.

Anthology Review: Beyond the Wall (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: Beyond the Wall (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic

Pages:  6 (25-30)

Thoughts:

Beyond the Wall is very similar to That Damned Thing by the same author, in that the majority of the story is told as a story to another character. While I didn’t care for it in the latter short story, I felt that it worked pretty well for the former. In Beyond the Wall, the meat of the story is told through the dialogue of two old acquaintances; one is visiting while the other is telling the ‘spooky story’.  This was handled better because the told story had the normal flow of a story, while the told story in That Damned Thing did not and therefore felt out of place.

Again, I didn’t find this story to be creepy, scary, or chilling. For me the story, while still very interesting, was more of a sad tale than one for fright. There are elements that may be frightening to younger audiences, but it was another instance in which time has taken away some of the fright. In 1907, I’m sure this story was quite unnerving, but I believe that the audience of today would find it less so.

Rating:

3/5

Overall, this was a very interesting and enjoyable short story. Some readers may not like or have issues with the now old writing style. Bierce’s voice is very poetic and complex, with sentence structures that may lead some readers to confusion. Lovers of classics and English will definitely enjoy this story. While not chilling or frightening, I still really liked this story and find it to be the best of Bierce in this collection of short stories.

Anthology Review: Ecdysis (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: Ecdysis (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Rebecca J. Allred

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Science Fiction

Pages: 7 (12-18)

Thoughts:

I’ve never been one to read horror stories before, but I wanted to give it a shot when I realized what kind of horror I could get into. I didn’t know what kind of horror story Ecdysis would be, other than it would be chilling and science related. Dr. Allred works in pathology, so I knew that if anything else, this story would have some basis in science and boy did it!

In this short story readers come across a man who is obviously disturbed in some way. Some people may take offense to a mentally ill character being the story’s subject, calling foul about misrepresentation and fear mongering. I can assure you though, that this short story isn’t what it first seems. The author takes their time to slowly pull away the layers of mystery behind the character’s supposed illness, by using the character’s medical background to describe what doctors have deduced about his condition. The author gives the readers real medical terms for the character’s afflictions, some of which I’m quite sure I butchered, but does a wonderful job explaining what they all mean in layman terms.

The story didn’t take long to read, and not just because of the few pages. It was rather fast paced and divided into short sections of various lengths, going between his visit with his therapist to the various important pieces of his past. Normally such back and forth would annoy me; however, this was done in such a way that suggested he was revealing all these things to his therapist, slowly peeling away at the mystery of his character. As I devoured each word my skin tingled and itched, just like our nameless man, and by the end I wasn’t so much surprised by what happened but utterly freaked out by how easy the author transitioned between real and disbelief.

Rating:

4/5

Ecdysis definitely made my skin crawl by the end, making my skin itch even as I write this review sometime after reading. The beginning was a little hard for me to get into, but overall it was a fantastic read! I loved how the author seamlessly inserted real medical terms that didn’t confuse the readers or break up the flow of the story. Again, some people may take offense to the nameless character being mentally ill, but this story is not what it seems and I highly recommend reading it in its entirety before laying down judgement. Other than that, this short story was wonderfully written and sure made me squirm!

I would recommend this short story, and author, to anyone that enjoys a little science mixed into their horror. And for anyone with a strong feeling toward insects, either negative or positive, I will warn that they are also a focus in this plot so tread lightly!