Review: “Behold the Void,” Philip Fracassi

Pros: Intense and fascinating
Cons: Occasionally could have used a little more detail or explanation
Rating: 5 out of 5

Philip Fracassi’s anthology Behold the Void was recommended by a friend who knows my penchant for good horror, so I had to give it a read. I’m certainly not sorry I did. Fracassi combines the mundane and the maddening in truly wonderful ways. Color is key in his magnificent descriptions. He’s also pretty good at wrapping up the mundane parts of revelations in ways that make the maddening all the more wild. You just don’t expect the world to go crazy over a fairly standard case of cheating or an almost normal case of kids pranking each other. Most authors are good at one or the other, not both together mixed into one seamless story. It gives the unreal a sense of almost-reality that dragged my attention right in.

There are a couple of stories that I felt could have used just a little more of that real world touch in order to keep them from being a little too abstract. Why did the hole in the world in Altar come open as and when it did? How did it lead the children so inexorably toward it? Who’s the little boy in the road in The Horse Thief and what does he have to do with what ultimately happens?

Coffin was perfect. It was horrifying and creepy and the ending brought it around full circle. Similarly, The Baby Farmer flipped things nicely on their heads. Surfer Girl (which includes violence against minors, just fyi) had a very nice ending with multiple fascinating implications.

Fail-Safe was both hugely awesome and at the same time seriously unsatisfying. I can’t decide how I truly feel about it. I would have liked at least a little more implication about where it was going.

Mandala, the last tale in the collection, is my favorite. Two kids on vacation are playing on the beach. They don’t entirely like each other, and their families each have problems, but it’s summer–they’re all they have. That’s when one kid decides to play a nasty prank on the other, and everything goes wrong. The tension ratchets up and up with every turn of the screw, and I was so riveted I had to stay up late to finish reading it. For such a simple story it really got my heart rate going!

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