- Equinox- Six Declinations
- Richard S. Freeland
- Short Story Collection
- 125 pages
- Family Tradition
- The Last Angel
- Garbage Man
Equinox – Six Declinations is a solid collection of six short stories generally categorized as horror, fantasy, suspense, or the macabre. But don’t let the genre tags mislead you. This is one complex and unique anthology containing superior stories that should appeal to just about everyone. Forget that they’re listed as horror stories. All you really need to know is that each story is highly creative, tightly woven with strong, unforgettable dialogue, and has that unique “hook” ending (or segue) that so many short stories lack these days. If you like your macabre fiction complete with twists, turns, and a slightly off-kilter bite than Richard S. Freeland’s Equinox – Six Declinations is a short story collection just waiting for you. In one way or another each of the stories presented here reminded me a bit of Stephen King’s early works. The characters all live in the real world, have that working-man’s mentality, speak not like characters in a novel but like genuine people, and will frequently be subjected to the worst terror of their short lives.
“Equinox,” the title story, was nostalgic for me personally in the sense that it brought back memories of the classic vampire movies I used to watch as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, this is a modern tale not an old classic but taking a tired cliché like “Look into my eyes!” and making it fresh is always a difficult task yet Freeland manages to do just that with exceptional skill. The seduction inherent in Vampire films literally jumps off the page in this story (even though we’re never really sure that the antagonist is actually a vampire at all) and the depiction of the victim’s disorientation by supernatural hypnosis is chilling.
“Family Tradition,” the second story, is a cautionary tale of poaching in the wrong place and time. It’s also an uncommon rite-of-passage fairy-tale with a unique and lycanthropic surprise ending. You’ll never hunt on your neighbor’s land again…
“Anomalies” is by far the strangest story in the collection yet is remarkably amusing and decidedly entertaining. The residents of Booster’s Roost, an eclectic lot if ever there was one, experience a very strange and fantasy-filled day. Fire-and lightning-storms, nano-bots, and a boulder with a mind of its own blend with the characters and round out the action. The strong suit of this particular yarn is the punch ending and the smooth and believable dialogue leading up to it. In fact, Freeland’s strongest asset is, in my opinion, his use of free-flowing dialogue which reeks of realism and sounds, in my head, like people I know speaking to each other.
“The Last Angel” is the very best of the stories here and in my opinion really deserves to be more completely fleshed out and written into a full length novel (or even a series – wink to Mr. Freeland.) Set in a post-apocalyptic America this is a haunting quest story of heroic proportions with an unlikely mission. I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic tales that delve into the differences between our world today and the new world forced upon our descendants after a devastating environmental change. The Last Angel does not disappoint. The story left me eager to learn more about the ravaged, dying land. What happened to the world so many years before that turned it backward? Who or what is the angel? Where is it from? Where is it going to? Hopefully, Freeland will see fit some day to tell us more of this story. I, for one, can’t wait.
In “Garbage Man,” Henry Hatcher is a garbage man and an unlikely serial killer who can hear the voices of those wrongly murdered. Watch him take vengeance on their behalf. (Warning: This is not a story for the squeamish or faint of heart. Reader beware. There is a tragic scene here that will be heart-rending to those of you with small children.)
“Bygones,” the last story in the collection, deals with mortality, regret, and fear. After his oldest and closest friend dies of a stroke in a nursing home an elderly man confronts the denizens of a crack house as he rushes head-long to meet his own fate.
Equinox – Six Declinations is an engaging and compelling collection and I thoroughly enjoyed each of the six stories included in the anthology. The only real criticism I have is that the book lacked only one thing - another ten or twelve stories for me to enjoy.
4 out of 5 stars
- The Alternative
- Southeast Wisconsin