Paul Melniczek

Dark Regions Press
Trade Paper, 136 pages, $16.95
Review by Sheila Merritt

Legendary monsters know no territorial bounds. They exist in remote regions and populated cities. Paul Melniczek takes a globe trotting gander at all manner of beasties in his aptly titled short story collection, Monsters. There be dragons; a variant of the creature of the lagoon; devils; and other nasties of odd appearance. Superstitions and the arcane harmoniously haunt in well drawn settings. From Arizona to Australia; from the mountains of Tibet to the streets of London; Melniczek harnesses his hellions with ample skill and scares.

In the tale “Twilight’s Embrace,” for example, the monster is indeed horrifying in visage: “The thing was charcoal black, leathered wings folded across its scaled back. The face was hideous, the features exaggerated and monstrous. Gaping fangs hung over huge rubbery lips. All four appendages ended in massive, disproportionately large claws. And the terrible eyes gleamed the color of cold ashes, promising death.” As odious as this beast appears, the real villains of the piece are human; heartless and heinous in their actions.

There is supernatural seduction in “In the Night, Heels Clicking.” A sophisticated, cynical scientist finds herself attracted to a mysterious artist. He taunts her about her skepticism regarding the paranormal; indicating she might be using rationality as a defense against suppressed memory/feelings. The banter between the duo is highly entertaining: It is simultaneously flirtatious, and sinister.

Paul Melniczek also does a fine job creating mood and atmosphere. “The Bunyip,” set in an isolated area of Australia, possesses an excellent aura of ambience. Consider this evocative passage: “Great bullfrogs hoisted throaty calls across the placid waters, welcoming the advent of dusk from their floating lily pad panoplies. The droning of a thousand insects rose and fell in discordant melodies, their diminutive forms buzzing and shrieking between lichen-embraced trunks, skimming recklessly above the water surface, dancing and spinning in their endless ritual of cycle – feeding, mating and dying, their short-lived progeny rising once again from the muck and loamy soil.”

Eight eerie tales comprise Monsters. Each is unconventional; intriguingly different. The lure of the unknown motivates the book’s characters into hunting a universe of the unusual; the reader will enthusiastically follow their trail.

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