Radix Omnium Malum. Book Review

Radix Omnium Malum by Mike Chinn
Parallel Universe Press, p/b, 190pp, £9.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Mike Chinn’s first collection Give Me These Moments Back was an exceptional read. I know this for a fact. After all, I published it on my Alchemy Press imprint. Chinn’s second collection, Radix Omnium Malum, is no less exceptional and is well worth your time. Like Moments, Radix is a varied read – which can only be a good thing. For example, in his introduction David Sutton says: “Mike is a writer … [who] can change his literary colour seemingly at will.” This is true although the stories do tend towards the darker hues.

There are 16 stories in Radix, two of which (“The Streets of Crazy Cities” and “The Mercy Seat”) are original to this volume. The reprints range over 25 years of Chinn’s writing career, from publications including Charles L Grant’s Final Shadows (and thus we know without even reading “Rescheduled” this is an ace story), The Mammoth Book of Dracula, BFS Horizons, Read Raw, and others.

The first tale, “Radix Omnium Malus” examines the roots of the nasty thing that spreads, mycelium-like, across a town. It’s a fine and creepy monster story, despite the strange antagonist. “Two Weeks from Saturday” is an unquiet piece that takes an askance look at creativity. “Cheechee’s Out” is another monster story, one that shows how well Chinn is able to use his home city as an effective environment, making the location almost a character itself. “The Owl That Calls” moves to the West Country and melds the Mothman myth with the myths, real or otherwise, of Bodmin Moor. “The Streets of Crazy Cities”, one of the two original stories, deals with relationships, and despite the horrific ending feels very intimate. Also very intimate is the other new story, “The Mercy Seat”. As a devotee of Nick Cave I fully expected a story similar in scope to Cave’s disturbing song. Instead, Chinn’s story is of the same subtlety that Charles Grant might have chosen. It’s an effective, quiet story of a memory that can never be recaptured.

I’ve focussed on just a few of Chinn’s stories in this collection. And like all collections (and anthologies) different tales will appeal to different folks. But you are sure to discover something dark and disturbing herein, something that grabs your attention, demands your full engagement. A super collection by one of the UK’s fine dark fiction writers (Chinn also writes fabulous pulp fiction – check out his Damian Paladin stories, a new collection now available). The cover image is by an upstart artist, someone called Hieronymous Bosch; he is sure to do well.