The Haunted Grave and Other Stories: Eight Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction from the African Continent by Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, Parallel Universe Publications August 2016, £9.99 in paperback and £2.99 in ebook, Amazon Link: https://tinyurl.com/ht37g78
Reviewed by Alex S. Bradshaw
As the subtitle says this book is a collection of ‘Eight Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction from the African Continent’. All but the last story take place in Africa but all the stories contain themes and ideas that everyone can relate to and are clearly close to the author’s heart. The horrors and monsters that the collection deals with range from strange hybrid creatures that steal children from their families to rampant, deadly diseases or the dangers of racism.
The author’s voice is thick throughout these stories and that makes this collection a distinct reading experience. The voice combines well with the themes and content of the stories to strike interesting chords, but because the author’s voice is quite so heavy at times it can be a bit tough to read in parts. I felt that this might have been mitigated if the editor had been a bit more stringent with the stories that were previously published to make the narrative run a bit smoother but it didn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment. Additionally, the thick voice is one of the things that makes this collection enjoyable and unique so don’t let that put you off.
The stories are well told, once you have settled into the author’s voice, and they are interesting. The themes are clearly close to the author’s heart and are dealt with boldly and are not shied away from. For example, one of the stories deals with AIDs and another with racism; both are issues that are and have been very important in Africa and the author tackles these themes head on.
A very minor gripe is that I wish that some of the twists and horror elements of some of the stories had been a little less obvious which probably could have been solved with different titles. Take, for example, the story The Eaters of Flesh; there is a thick tension that surrounds the story, a must for any horror story, but as we have already seen the title there is an expectation which removes the sting from the twist.
If you would like something fresh to read with a different perspective to the usual stories that sit on a fantasy shelf then this collection might just be for you. Be aware that the narrative is thick and strays from the usual mannerisms and it might take a little while to get used to that, but I think that once you have it’s worth it.