Shane Hawk has declared himself an author to watch with his debut collection of indigenous horror tales, all set in Anoka, Minnesota (dubbed “The Halloween Capital of the World”). Anoka contains six short stories in which Hawk blends supernatural horror and historical facts and social commentary, resulting in a memorable and unsettling collection.
Anoka opens with the flash fiction short “Soilborne”, which tells the tale of the lengths a couple will go to in order to conceive a child. It is a very effective opening statement. Creepy and able to build a lot of dread in just a few pages, and with a fantastic twist.
“Wounded” is a more grounded, melancholy affair, dealing with a young man’s guilt at the death of his young sister. This story is surreal and fractured, its telling mirroring the character’s struggles, and has some truly haunting imagery. The effectiveness of this short however is the horror that is implied, not shown.
“Orange” is a brief but striking story told almost as a stream of consciousness narrative of an alcoholic, quick to anger and suffering from depression. The less you know about this short going in the better.
Anoka often delves into the supernatural and “Imitate” is perhaps the most effective story in this regard. The opening scene of a father putting his son to bed was genuinely terrifying, and there are some truly gruesome and horrifying set pieces that follow. As a story aiming to scare, it is effective enough, but there is so much more going on than a simple creature-based tale. It is a pitch-perfect blend of full-on horror, clever layering and a powerful metaphor about change and loss.
“Dead America” is another short that succeeds in getting under your skin. This story has a nightmarish feel throughout, as the main character vividly describes recurring bad dreams that slowly bleed over into reality, leaving us unsure whether what follows is real or imagined. The ick factor is through the roof, but the message is both poignant and enlightening.
The collection closes with “Transfigured”, a werewolf tale with a twist. The lead character’s feelings regarding her transformations is a new and interesting take, making this a strong ending for an overall excellent collection.
Many of the stories contained within Anoka are of the rare variety that are satisfying at first glance, but are so layered with symbolism and deeper meaning that they reward multiple re-reads. “Imitate”, in particular (which was possibly my favorite of the collection) has a lot to unpack once the ending is revealed, and the story is packed full of subtle nods at the direction that it is going that are easily missed the first time around.
Each story gets its own story note at the end and they make fascinating companion pieces, best read directly after reading each short. It was a joy to read the real history behind the ideas on display, and the work and research that has gone into this book is clearly evident.
Anoka is a perfect blend of effective horror, lingering on your mind long after you’ve finished reading, and a captivating dive into the culture and history of Native Americans, with each story offering multiple readings and meanings, coupled with insightful story notes once you’re done. A consistently excellent collection that I highly recommend to any horror fan looking for something to really engage the senses.
Anoka: A Collection of Indigenous Horror by Shane Hawk
Here before you lie several tales involving bone collectors, pagan witches, werewolves, skeletal bison, and cloned children. It is up to you to decipher between fact and fiction as the author has woven historical facts into his narratives.
DescriptionWelcome to Anoka, Minnesota, a small city just outside of the Twin Cities dubbed “The Halloween Capital of the World” since 1937. Here before you lie several tales involving bone collectors, pagan witches, werewolves, skeletal bison, and cloned children. It is up to you to decipher between fact and fiction as the author has woven historical facts into his narratives. With his debut horror collection, author Shane Hawk explores themes of family, grief, loneliness, and identity through the lens of indigenous life.