Short Take: “Black Butterflies,” John Shirley

Pros: Genuinely creepy urban horror
Cons: Some bits seem less horrific than silly
Rating: 4 out of 5

Black Butterflies, by John Shirley, is a collection of horror short stories. It’s broken into two pieces: This World, and That World. “This World” is comprised of stories in the ‘real,’ non-supernatural world. “That World” includes some less-explainable phenomena. I expected to like That better than This since I like a touch of the unnatural with my horror, but I felt that the “This World” stories were better.

Sex, drugs, street life, sexual assault, and death are strewn all over the pages. This World is lurid and dark. Drug dealers, addicts, and hustlers abound. We find ourselves in the midst of cannibals, affairs, domestic abuse, and drunks.

In That World some items are genuinely creepy, but a few feel more silly than scary. Shirley seems to have a bit of a fixation on the act of eating people’s flesh. The Old Ones and zombies make cameo appearances.

I enjoyed Black Butterflies. It isn’t my ideal of horror, but it’s well worth reading.

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