REVIEW: Stories To Poke Your Eyes Out To
Jonathan Moon recently released his latest collection under his own imprint, Barn Burner Books, called Stories to Poke Your Eyes Out To. When I say Jonathan Moon is a badass, I mean that in the most endearing of manners. This guy has gut. His writing has heart. You haven’t heard of him…? Hogwash. He is one of the front men for underground horror. It is a movement that’s pushing the big six out of the spotlight (Have you seen the Stoker recommended reading list?). This collection is further proof of why that is happening. Great writers are tired of going through the “time tested” method of submitting and waiting for days, months, and in professional markets years for a response (and with small royalty returns, nonetheless).
With this latest selection of stories Moon has shunned the big houses by creating an atmosphere within a cohesive work, one that is memorable to say the least. His words drift into your ears, only needing to read them for the sake of comprehension. You can hear a faint voice whispering the narrative on every page, a desperate voice with the need of escaping the pages.
The first of eighteen stories, which swing between flash and near-novella length, is called “Heart of an Angel”. It’s short, dark, and reminiscent of “The Tell-Tale Heart” in that something sick is speaking to the narrator, begging him for supplication.
“Real Love Burns” is the first introduction of the narrator’s lost love, January. It’s delivered with a graceful and beautiful language. There are demons and talking dog carcasses, and everything you’d expect from a black and white horror film. I’m usually uninterested in stories that involve zombies; however “Poisoned Meat” offered a very interesting take in that the virus is unprejudiced to different species. One of my favorite stories in the collection was “Roadside Crosses”, where we see the story through the eyes of characters with no connection at their own mile marker—great haunted road story with a devious villain. “Conversing Doctor DeFeo” follows next. The story reeks of hopelessness. It’s what happens when you start digging into things that are better left alone. There’s a Frankensteinian monster and an amazingly twisted storyline.
“Corpse Eater” is told using one of my favorite characters: new-guy-on-the-job. You can imagine from the title what will happen in this one. Still, worth every page. “Human as a Vulture” is probably the shortest piece in the book. Told in second person, it’s a nice tidbit to break up the longevity of a collection. “Disasternoon” is also short in form. It’s the most honest and real to life story in the book. “Bone Home” resonated for me. You will walk through a haunted house led by a creepy guide. You’ll feel as though you just took a ride on the Haunted Mansion in Disney, except with blood with crazier inhabitants. You’ll come to your doom in Bone Home and you’ll love every minute of it.
Revenge at its sweetest comes in “The Man with the Zaftig Gun”. MoOn has the knack for delivering flash fiction that’s to the point. “All That Glimmers Isn’t Copper” is told through two time channels. We flip from present to past with a cast of characters that are constantly fighting for power in a mine. Awfully frightening in nature (and Lovecraftian, too), it’s the story of how greed can shadow human judgment. Humorous, yet at the same time rather disturbing was “MC Stiches”. Everyone wonders about these freaks in the basement.
“Amputee Disco & the Lord of the Groove” was the first story where I saw MoOn’s bizarre side shine. He invented such strange creatures for the sake of the story. The surrealist can admire the dreamlike journey embarked upon in this one. Here we encounter another sharp, short prose that speaks volumes, “Soul in My Throat”. My favorite story, “So Proudly They Crawl”, in which an Aryan gang is attempting to create a race of super-soldiers, is next. It races along at light speed, the action not ending until you can finally breathe at the final word. The macabre creations in this story will have you wondering if a movie should be in the works.
“Self-mutilation Blues” is a flash with a catchy tune, one “you can dance to, baby”. It builds with anticipation and breaks with poignancy. As with every collection, you’ll come across a story about which you’re not crazy. “Temper like a Hammer” was the one for me. The characters seemed to blend together, and eventually I had trouble sorting them out. However, “Devil’s Bath Shack” brought me back to that reverie that is MoOn’s writing, that chilling voice that can take you to places you don’t really care to go. The narrator has come full circle and finally is contented with the fact that the pain never leaves.
As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, anthologies and collections are hit or miss. Stories to Poke Your Eyes Out To was definitely a hit. It has every element to stand with the giants such as Clive Barker’s Books of Blood or King’s Night Shift. If it doesn’t become a standard, then color me an idiot. I’d buy the book one thousand times over, just to give them away on the street.