Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Five Minutes to Hell and Back Again ~ A Review of "Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror" by Hell Richards

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Recently I've taken the plunge into an odd short story (I suppose the official name is "Flash Fiction") collection entitled Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror by an author named Hell Richards. I assume she has no relation to Richard Hell, the infamous punk musician, but I can't be sure.

Full disclosure is two-fold: I got this for free, and I've hated the majority of modern horror I've read. It would be easy to dismiss this as a throwaway collection, or give it an easy rating even if I didn't enjoy what I received. But the truth is also two-fold: I don't change reviews based on the price I paid for the material, and I always review products for what they're trying to be and not what I want them to be. All that out of the way, let's get to it.

Well, first I should describe just what this is.

Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror comprises of just over forty slices of short horror that each take no more and no less than five minutes to read. The subjects vary from obvious horror tropes like serial killers to more ineffable beings to weird twists to legendary monsters and everything in between. For such short stories they are varied in their subjects, some of which are better than others, but all of which make for good horror experiences.

As for my personal thoughts, I enjoyed the stories focused on monsters, indescribable horrors, and weird tale-esque ventures more than the ones involving realistic serial killers. I simply don't find people like this fascinating or interesting in the slightest. Sick people don't make for fun reading unless they are villains begging to be stopped. But they are only one type among many. With a count of just over forty stories there is plenty here to engage.

My personal favorite stories of the collection include Wendigo, The Silent, My Monster, Aronaga, I Hate the Cinema, Daruma-san, That's How I Do It, Satoru-kun, Cat Scratch, and Sally in the Woods. It was difficult to choose among so many as so many are just quick and enjoyable enough to hook the reader for five minutes or so.

Horror works best in a framework of rules. The reader has to understand why what they're partaking in is creepy and will have trouble being engaged if there's no coherent reason for what is happening. Even Lovecraft's most successful stories, as imaginative as they were, played on the fact that the audience, and the protagonist, didn't know the rules. That was what made them eerie. But nothing happened that would jar or take the reader out of the plot and make them feel cheated.

These stories are short enough that no rules get broken, not that I think this author would otherwise, and that's why I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any fan of horror. Just over forty tales is well worth your time and they are all varying degrees of fun. It's also refreshing to not have a modern horror collection that has to sneak in a very clunky moral lesson to ruin the atmosphere and take the reader out of it. These are just what you'd expect--creepy and unsettling stories.

This is good old fashion horror, and if that's what you like, I recommend reading Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror. This is what you've been looking for.

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