Falling Over by James Everington
An ordinary man who sees his face in a tabloid newspaper. A soldier haunted by the images of those he killed from afar. Two petty criminals on the run from a punishment more implacable than either of them can imagine. Doppelgangers both real and imaginary. A tranquil English village where those who don’t fit in really aren’t welcome, and a strange hotel where second chances are allowed…at a price
Ten stories of unease, fear and the weird from James Everington.
It’s been a while since I’ve read an anthology so I couldn’t pass up the chance when I got the opportunity to read this collection from James Everington. I think it’s horror, doesn’t matter if it’s subtle or overt, that lends itself best to short punchy stories.
A few words on my favourites from this compilation –
Falling Over – Michelle has been replaced by something that looks like her, acts like her, but it’s just not her. The story that lends its title to the entire collection starts things off with a homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The setting, an unnamed university/college during the holiday period, works well. There are only four characters and much of the action takes place within just a handful of rooms.
Haunted – A very short story, only a hundred words long, that riffs on the classic haunted house theme. I think I would probably describe it as more of a suggestion of a story than an entire story in its own right. I really like the premise of this and I can appreciate that technically this is clever writing, but I think I would have preferred this expanded upon.
New Boy – A middle manager in a large faceless company returns to work after a short absence. In the aftermath of a traumatic event, he finds he has some issues with a new employee. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will appreciate the elements that make up this tale.
The Man Dogs Hated – In this instance, the title says it all. This entry definitely falls into the weird category. More than a little surreal, but also, more than a little thought provoking. This is a story that’s all about fitting in and what happens when someone just doesn’t.
Sick Leave – A primary school teacher has been away from work due to illness. Things appear to have subtly changed while she has been away, but she can’t figure out for the life of her how or why. Any story involving spooky children and nursery rhymes regarding bubonic plague is always going to be creepy. Childhood is always a fertile breeding ground for horror as this story manages to perfectly illustrate.
Drones – Every screen that a soldier looks at becomes a conduit for a mysterious force to wreak its revenge against him. The ending of this story has a wonderfully apocalyptic feel that kind of reminded me of the 2006 film Pulse. I think this was probably my favourite of the entire collection. I like the downbeat tone, the short fiction I connect with most always seems to have that quality. I always find at least one story in an anthology that I wish was a novel in its own right. Drones bears that particular distinction in this case.
After the main collection there are a couple of pages of notes that offer some nice additional insight into the creation of each story. I always appreciate extra content like this.
Overall I was impressed with this collection. I think there is something here for anyone who enjoys fiction in the short form. There are a couple of real gems that I enjoyed immensely. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from James in the future.
Falling Down is published by Infinity Plus Books and is available now.