Resurrection House
James Chambers

Dark Regions Press
Limited edition: $40.00
Review by Sheila Merritt

“Really, it’s about people. That’s all. People calling on powers they can’t control, people doing bad things for terrible reasons. Every monster that ever existed was a man or woman once.” So says a character in one of the stories included in James Chambers’ Resurrection House. This wise observation is a recurring theme in the ten tales which comprise the volume. Delving into human frailties and fears, Chambers acknowledges the internal monsters of the psyche. He also adroitly addresses the external evils; those terrors that are kept at bay for the sense of sanity.

Youth and childhood are excellently explored in several of the stories. Those periods are not glorified, but presented with a clear-eyed look. In the tale “Mooncat Jack,” for example, an older brother feels sibling rivalry and resentment. His description of throwing snowballs reflects malice and morbidity: “A few shook dead branches loose, but the best ones were the ones that smacked loud and square against the trunk. A hit like that left half a snowball clinging to the thick bark, and in the dark they looked like tiny scalps of ghostly babies struggling to be born from the knothole wombs of the trees, white and frozen in time, trapped dead before they even began to live.” During the course of the story, the older brother’s devotion is tested by Mooncat Jack. Jack is a ghoulish creature with a human (that is, a potentially empathetic) side. While challenging the conventions of the familial unit, he assesses its strengths and weaknesses. Though villainous in visage and satanically sinister, Mooncat Jack isn’t thoroughly fiendish. He is a supernatural being who reacts to the dynamics of a household; only taking away those he feels are not a wanted part of the whole.

In other tales in the compilation, rejection and reunion transform into tragedy. The loathsome legacies of the past are also explored; to ignore them is costly. Paying attention to them, however, is not a “get out of jail free card” from fiendish or demonic retribution.

The eight reprinted and two new stories in Resurrection House horrifically reflect reminders of the fragility of being human. James Chambers shows the vulnerable side of his characters; how they are drawn into that dark aspect that beckons, or just quietly rests, waiting to be awakened. Some completely succumb to it; others fight it off. All, however, become aware of the dormant monster that lurks within.

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