Genres: Bizarro, Dark Fantasy, Extreme Horror
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The following is based on a copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
In this day and age of increasingly short attention spans, author K. Z. Morano offers the perfect cure for such an affliction with her collection of micro-fiction. 100 stories, each of 100 words in length, bolted together to form 100 Nightmares.
It’s undoubtedly ambitious stuff. Most authors fail to deliver with 10000 words, let alone 100. But Morano demonstrates early on that she is up to the task. Mommy Makes Dinner was the first of her tales to strike a chord with me, its reveal somehow managing to be insidious despite the brevity of the work. Through the opening half of 100 Nightmares, I found myself time and again pleasantly surprised. Laundry was immensely satisfying; Control Freak, a gleefully spiteful affair; and The Secondhand Man stayed with me through the rest of the day that I read it. Morano also dedicates an early section of the book to re-imagining a number of classic nursery rhymes and faerie tales. Most are enjoyably dark, some – such as Golden Locks, Sibling Love, and Ever After – are disturbingly haunting.
The other section of the book that I generally got a kick out of was that entitled Diaries of Bones. This gory section contains some of the more memorable images the author conjured up, such as those attached to Animal Shelter and Funny Bone.
But as with any collection of stories, there were a number that fell flat for me. And when that collection is 100 tales, it only makes sense that those less successful entries are going to be more numerous. Culturally-speaking, the section about monsters deriving from Japanese folklore was interesting as it highlighted just how bizarre some of the things that scare the Japanese are. But as stories and entertainment value goes, very few had an impact on me. The fact this was the last section in the book likely magnified its shortcomings, especially after some of the early successes Morano offered. Also, at times, it became apparent, 100 words just wasn’t enough for the author to convey her point, resulting in a number of stories that were too abstract and ambiguous for my tastes.
I was also slightly surprised to find myself too aware of just how much of the violence in these tales focuses on children. If it got to me (perhaps I’m starting to mellow as a new father) then others with more delicate sensitives should enter these waters forewarned.
And finally, though others will likely see it differently, I failed to appreciate the inclusion of drawings to illustrate many of the stories. To me, this felt like a bit of cheat. If your whole gimmick is to stick to 100 words with all of your tales, aren’t you bending the rules to then illustrate that tale with a picture that tells 1000 words? (That said, the cover art is incredible!)
In all, Morano delivers an eclectic range of ambitious micro-fiction, the more accomplished of which is truly impressive in what it achieves in such a small amount of words. So much so that I can’t help but wonder what she might be able to achieve with a longer tale of a more traditional length?
3.5 Body Parts Discarded in the Corner for 100 Nightmares. (P.S. I’m eschewing our usual rating system here because it’s too hard to give a score overall for ‘Characters’ when there are 100 tales. Same for ‘Believability’, ‘Plot’, etc).