My first exposure to the short stories of Michael Paul Gonzalez was in the Best Hardcore Horror Volume 5 anthology, which featured his short “Upper Crust” (which is also collected here). “Upper Crust” was a bitingly satirical allegory, wrapped up in an utterly revolting tale, and I knew I had to seek out more stories by this author.
Carry Me Home is a collection of twenty tales of horror and heartbreak, featuring;
- A vile creature who wants your suffering to be worth the having
- The real story of the 1969 moon landing
- A world where everyone knows how they are going to die, and one couple fighting to change their fates
- A fraternity brother invited to an exclusive gathering, where the price of success is made sickeningly clear
- A hunt for sasquatch where the hunters soon find themselves being the hunted
- A letter to Santa with some bold claims and dire consequences
- A prison break gone horribly wrong
- A support group for the undead and woman struggling come to terms with her death
The first thing that struck me about Carry Me Home is how diverse the stories on offer are. After reading “Upper Crust,” I was expecting extreme horror, or stories intended to gross the reader out. What I actually got was an eclectic mix of styles, tones, and genres that made up an excitingly unpredictable book. Early stories in the collection are, to varying degrees, hardcore horror, and they come with some appropriate trigger warnings at the outset. One of my favorite stories was the collection’s opener, “Your Mutual Friend,” a disturbing story of a young boy kidnapped while trick or treating on Halloween. Its themes and content won’t be for everyone, but it is a harrowing and truly frightening story, and a hell of a way to open a collection.
The most memorable story for me was “Worth the Having.” This story spans the childhood, adolescence, then adult life of someone tormented each year by a creature that violently feeds from them, but in return grants them a wish. A hyper-violent story, so vivid in its descriptions and so incredibly inventive in its execution, is one that stayed with me long after I put the book down.
Then, reading on, the tone of the collection started to change. “The Seas of Hell in a Little Glass Bottle” is a surreal, richly atmospheric Lovecraftian story. “Bloodsuckers (Three Monologues)” is a funny, slightly melancholy twist on the famous Universal Monsters, while “The Iron Bulldogge” seems heavily influenced by Urban Fantasy and Magical Realism, and “The Forest that Howls” is a straight-up creature feature. There is such a varied mix, that there should be something here to suit every taste.
Carry Me Home is one of the strongest horror short story collections I have read in a long time. Every person who reads it will likely have a different favorite story, but what they all have in common is strong concepts with masterful storytelling, each short having layers and meanings that reward multiple readings. Michael Paul Gonzalez has delivered some of my new favorite horror shorts here and I can see this being one of those rare books I revisit again and again.
Carry Me Home: Stories of Horror and Heartbreak by Michael Paul Gonzalez
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A serial killer looking for a sweet tooth. A pound of flesh for any wish you want. Illuminati pizza conspiracies. Hollywood vampires. Werewolves on the moon. Twenty stories that explore fear, depression, injustice, the horror of triumph, and the beauty of failure.
DescriptionA serial killer looking for a sweet tooth. A pound of flesh for any wish you want. Illuminati pizza conspiracies. Hollywood vampires. Werewolves on the moon. Helpful zombies. Bigfoot hunting poachers. An Elf rebellion at the North Pole. A steampunk internet. Jailbreaks, heartbreaks, lost loves and lost chances. Twenty stories that explore fear, depression, injustice, the horror of triumph, and the beauty of failure.