There are times when a reader wants a great short story collection that can be digested in small bites, like nibbling on a favorite food, not wanting to finish. Unlike novels, which demand a commitment that sometimes cannot be fulfilled due to poor writing, inconsistent storytelling, or myriad technical errors, none of those holds true for Brandon Meyers’ Chasing the Sandman: Tales of the Macabre. As a self-published book (generally a red flag for those seeking professional writing), Sandman did have some technical errors and awkward imagery, but the incredibly imagined tales are so engrossing and frightening, it’s difficult not to read it right through.
Rarely does short fiction cause me nightmares. However, the opening story, “Graveyard Shift,” not only gave me a horrible case of the heebie-jeebies, but stayed with me for weeks afterward and chased me in my sleep. When police officer Mickey O’Houlihan investigates a suspicious sighting during a much-needed cigarette break, he finds far more than he could ever imagine. Whatever you do, don’t think of spiders the size of wild boars. Meyers really knows how to set the tension and push it higher and higher, and that admirable skill is quite evident here. Rarely do I use trite phrases like “edge of your seat,” but in this case it truly fits. No wasted ideas, no underused moments. For this story alone, it’s worth the price.
“A View of the Top” pits brother and sister against a sadistic sort while they attempt to find their way through a hedge maze. Reminiscent of the maze in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, this is a wicked little story that will make you think twice before entering that corn maze next Halloween.
“Spirit House” telegraphs its ending far in advance, but the writing holds you to the page, and that’s the mark of a great storyteller, especially when it leaves you wanting more. For comic-book fans, you’ll adore “1st Appearance,” an incredibly creative tale, weaving in a unique twist on the power of comic books. “Into the Deep” is a tidy tale in which chance plays a big role in the actions of two men who find themselves in an unexpected place in unexpected conditions, despite their best laid plans.
In all, there are twenty-one darkly humorous and imaginatively frightening tales in this collection, and the greatest shortcoming is that many of the stories are just too darned short. The characterization and storytelling is adept and intriguing, and the creativity is stunningly original.
Perhaps the most admirable trait of this collection is its consistency. Meyers brings a definite tongue-in-cheek sensibility to his writing, though doesn’t overuse it. Chasing the Sandman harkens back to the pulp era, when one could buy a magazine for a nickel or a dime and expect to be scared witless by stories from H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Lawrence Bloch, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Heinlein and others. And there are definite winks and nods to these authors, as well as Stephen King and more modern dark fiction. Meyers may not be of that caliber (yet), but the foundation is laid for future writing, and I, for one, am definitely looking forward to it.
Chasing the Sandman is available through Amazon in paperback and digital formats.
Myers also maintains a web-comic, A Beer for the Shower, with collaborative writing partner Bryan Pedas, which displays his agile wit and humor to an advantage, and gives fans access to his talent on a regular basis.