Friday, July 24, 2009

Shock Radio and Other Stories by Gabriel Daemon

TITLE: Shock Radio and Other Stories
AUTHOR: Gabriel Daemon
PUBLISHER: eXcessica
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 37k)
GENRE: Paranormal
COST: $4.99

A collection of four stories, whose only connections are the elements of the supernatural and erotic tones…

Don’t be fooled by my scores given in my matrix below. When I read an anthology, I break down each category equally amongst each of the stories, score them individually, then add them all together for a final number for that particular criterion. For me, it’s the only fair way to judge an overall work. Every story should carry its own weight. However, that ultimately means that an overall score of an anthology could be lower than what I feel it deserves, based upon my reactions to the individual stories. I absolutely loved the first two stories in this anthology, but unfortunately, my scores might not necessarily reflect that.

The first, and strongest, story in the anthology is “Shock Radio.” Joe Rags is a successful shock-jock on satellite radio. On Halloween, he invites his audience to share stories that embody the true spirit of Halloween, not the whitewashed version he thinks it’s become. He ends up taking a call from a guy identifying himself as Nick, who warns that he is stalking Joe’s ex-wife. What follows is a series of increasingly horrific phone calls from Nick, leaving Joe suitably afraid of the worst. There is nothing gentle about this short story. It’s bold, brutal, and unforgiving, just like most shock programming. Joe typifies the host you’d expect, until he finally starts to show some humanity in his reactions to what is going on with his ex-wife. While I never liked Joe, I did believe him, and got caught up in his anxiety and anger as the situation progressed. I couldn’t put the story down. The graphic horror has erotic content, but it’s not meant to arouse. It’s meant to terrify, and in this case, it does so excessively well. I would have bought future work by – and been a fan of – this author based on this story alone.

But then came “Spirit of Love.” Where the first story abrades nerves and emotions with its stark language and disturbing content, the second creates a softer, gentler, far more melancholy atmosphere. Pete is determined that his ex-girlfriend find a new relationship, someone who can make her happy again, and sets out to show the man who has garnered her attention exactly how to woo her. Pete mourns the loss of his ex in touching, careful prose, and even though this story didn’t challenge me like the first did, it touched me in ways the other couldn’t. It succeeded in both making me smile and moving me to tears, all within the same page. The fact that two such different stories could create such spontaneous and disparate reactions in me, back to back, cemented my earlier decision to trust this author.

Unfortunately, the first two stories are leaps and bounds above the latter two. The third in the anthology is “Amazing Grace,” the story of a single mom, mourning the carefree life she used to have and living vicariously through her neighbors. It lacked the flow of the first stories, its focus constantly shifting. I’m sure I’m meant to get worked up over Jessica’s frustration, but it doesn’t have the same driving force as the other protagonists’. I’m left just kind of coasting along, wondering when something interesting is going to happen. Then, when it does, it comes so far out of the blue, it was never believable. I liked Jessica. I just never believed or really cared too much about the story that was told for her.

The final, and weakest, story in the anthology is “Streetwalker.” Even more than its predecessors, it seems to be a study on how a young girl takes to the streets for her very first time, but the erotica feels forced and the emotions unreal. I can’t say much about it without giving too much away, though really, nothing of much note happens other than the two girls talking and the sex that occurs.

But in spite of my lack of satisfaction in the second half of the anthology, I’m still seeking this author out. I might be a little more selective in what I buy, though. I’m not convinced erotica is this author’s strength, so stories that focus on that probably wouldn’t interest me as much as other elements of his writing. Strengths here lie in subtle emotional shifts, even in characters as unsubtle as Joe Rags.


8/10 – I gulped down the first two stories, barely able to breathe, though the latter half isn’t as strong


6/10 – The first two stories, though drastically different, carry emotional weight and intent, while the latter two failed to thoroughly engage


6/10 – Nothing beats the personalities in the first

Entertainment value

7/10 – The power of the first two stories is more than enough to inspire me to look up more of this author’s work

World building

6/10 – Focus is on character most of the time



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