Demon Face and other stories by Chris Limb. ebook review

DEMON FACE, AND OTHER STORIES by Chris Limb, e/b, self-published, chrislimb.com, £1.49

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

This is a very mixed collection of collection of short stories with no particular theme or connection, so it was fun never knowing what the next story might be. My impression is that Chris, whom I hadn’t heard of before, is a young or new author trying out ideas.

Some of the stories are fairly straight horror or ghost stories that would be at home in any of the Pan or Fontana anthologies I read as a child. In Repression, a young woman’s anxieties trigger a memory, or is it a ghost, and what’s the difference? Gabriel’s Ghost is a traditional ghost story with the novel idea that ghosts might take offence if you don’t believe in them; Notifications is a contemporary campfire tale; Field Trip is about zombies and teenage insecurity and Demon Face, the longest story in the book, takes a common childhood fear and makes it flesh. In the ironic and twisted Alibi a perfect murder plot is ruined by a delayed train.

There’s a little cluster of science fiction including the rather Jolly Welcome Aboard, the odd and touching Simulacrum and the heart-breaking The Right to Remain Sentient.

However, I most enjoyed Limb’s satirical pieces. Ministry of Outrage is a chilling and believable story about misinformation and manipulation of the public mood; Maximise Revenue is about the ubiquity of advertising and our complicity in it; Scratchmind is about the shallowness of social media and in The Product even our emotions are slave to productivity and capitalism.

Limb’s prose is consistently good, characters well realised, situations inventive and believable, and there is always subtext, sometimes subtle, often more strident. The satire is never far from the surface even in the seemingly straightforward horror stories.

Overall this is a fine collection to add to your shelf, though if your bookshelves are arranged by genre you won’t know where to put it.