Something Blue and Other Colorful Deaths
Trepidatio Publishing (March 31, 2023)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers
In Something Blue and Other Colorful Deaths, L. L. Soares writes about the monstrous: monstrous intrusions into our reality, transformations of the self and the world around us, and the kind of body horror that results when one’s flesh is suddenly changed into the other, something loathsome and unwelcome. Soares terrifies by asking the reader: what happens when you discover that the world around you isn’t what you thought it was, when you realize that it’s not comfortable and familiar at all, but something alien and awful? And perhaps you are too.
Though Soares is a Bram Stoker Award winner, this was my first exposure to his work. I’m delighted to say that I very much enjoyed the breadth and themes of the short fiction in this collection. With seventeen stories of varying length, there’s a lot going on here, so I’ll focus on some of my favorites.
Soares writes about sad people trapped in awful lives whose fortunes go downhill fast very, very well. The first tale in the collection, “Something Blue,” is such a story. Two nice little children with crappy families, Jude and Shirley, find a strange blue creature hidden in the tall grass near their homes one day, and tragedy ensues. Grim, poignant, sad, and very, very good. “The Click of an Unhinged Jaw” was another such story. Told for the perspective of a precocious eleven year old girl who is trying to make sense of her older sister’s gruesome death and solve the crime. She uncovers a great deal more than she imagined at the outset. A nice piece that blends cosmic horror with traditional folklore.
“Sometimes the Good Witch Sings to Me” was an extraordinarily grim tale that has stuck with me. Jerry, a lonely and isolated man grappling with the loss of all of his closest personal relationships, seems to have been selected by Glinda the Good Witch (of Oz, you know the one) to kill evil witches, who happen to look like homeless women living in the alleys and byways of his town. Jerry slowly crumples under the strain of this compulsion.
In “Still Life with Soul Juice,” Carlos is an artist who meets his muse. Unfortunately the muse turns out to be a monstrous, insectile entity that wants to devour the “soul juice” contained in his (or other people’s) blood. Carlos has got to decide if his art career is worth forging a pact with this thing.
One of my favorites was “City Slayer,” which is about a man named Abercrombie who reveres a saint who seems to be the patron of killing entire cities (as in Sodom and Gomorrah). And that saint has imbued Abercrombie with the ability to kill all of the inhabitants of a city in a single night. Really powerful stuff. In a different kind of apocalyptic tale, “Necropolis,” Fred Harrison is an ordinary guy living in a world in which, one day, with no warning, almost every other person on the planet (except Fred) decides to commit suicide. I really, really liked this one.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about two linked stories that I found especially strong (I think these are the only stories in the collection that have ties with other stories): “Second Chances” and “Holiday House.” Both are set in the beach community of Blue Clay, Massachusetts. It’s an unsettling place that features an unpleasant sounding shore area, some deep dark secrets, and some extremely damaged people. These stories are those perfect examples of weird fiction where the central puzzling elements are left unexplained but are nevertheless entirely satisfying as stories. That’s hard to do, but Soares does it well.
That brief overview doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of Soares’ distinct visions across the contents of Something Blue and Other Colorful Deaths. These are powerful tales. Definitely recommended.