This might be surprising, but for a person who lives and breathes horror movies, I don’t actually read that many horror novels. Reading is mostly a funtime brain break for me, so I usually stick to mystery/thrillers that promise shocking twists. However, something about the description of Mike Allen’s latest collection struck a chord with me. So I read it. And that brings us to my review of Aftermath of an Industrial Accident.
Who is Mike Allen?
image via author’s Twitter
Mike Allen is an author, obviously, but that’s not all. He also works as a reporter and a columnist for his local paper, the Roanoke Times, in Roanoke, Virginia. And he’s an editor. And along with his wife, the owner of the book imprint Mythic Delirium Books. But we’re here to talk about the authoring, so let’s get back to that.
Allen has written at least one full-length novel (and some novellas), but he primarily writes short stories and poems. Previous collections of his include Unseaming (fiction) and Strange Wisdoms of the Dead (poetry). He has been a finalist for such prestigious awards as the World Fantasy, the Nebula, and the Shirley Jackson. And now he’s gotta face me.
Aftermath of an Industrial Accident: On Plot
In the spirit of his previous books, Aftermath is a collection of both short stories and poems. Beginning with the poem “Six Waking Nightmares Poe Gave Me in the Third Grade,” 22 other poems and stories follow. These include the first story, “Sun Saw,” which sees a Korean War vet trapped in the compound of a terrifying cult.
Other stories include “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” about an unusually gifted ghost hunter who runs into the dreaded Queen of Night, “Puppet Show,” in which a band’s Gwar (or Grand Guignol)-like concert has a sinister backstory, and “Burn the Kool Kidz at the Stake,” where an author may be haunted by the past or just haunted.
Someone with a better education in Clive Barker’s work could probably spot his influence in Allen’s work. However, Barker is, perhaps surprisingly, a pop culture blind spot for me, so I couldn’t point out similarities. And while I’ve read some Laird Barron, a contemporary of Allen’s in so-called weird horror, I’m also not familiar enough with his work to contrast and compare.
Aftermath of an Industrial Accident Review
image via Mythic Delirium Books
Instead, the author comparison that first came to mind to me, besides one I’ll get to in a minute, was Karen Russell. Although St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is not a horror book–unless you look at the title story as an allegory for Indian boarding schools, as I do–there is a similarity to me in the settings. For example, you start reading a story by either Russell or Allen. It seems like it’s set in our world. It seems as if it has our rules. But then something shifts. Someone reveals their many limbs or that their daddy’s actually a Minotaur and you realize this isn’t our world after all. I love that.
And I liked most of the stories. My favorite would probably be “Longsleeves,” a horror meets fantasy story about what men will sacrifice for an inch more of power. I also liked the goofy grossness of “Tick Flick” and the dread of “Drift from the Windrows,” a darkly satiric sketch of life at a Monsanto-esque corporation.
If there were a weakness in the book for me, then it would be the story endings. Many stories just stop, which left me wondering, And then what? In addition, through no fault of his own, Allen has the misfortune of my reading this book shortly after I read Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country. Like “Sun Saw,” it is also a tale of a Korean War veteran who encounters cosmic horror. And I absolutely LOVED it, so it’s a hard act to follow. Again, that’s out of Allen’s control. But it probably did affect my enjoyment of the story.
So while that tale didn’t necessarily wow me, I did enjoy the book as a whole. And I’m pretty sure it made me have at least one nightmare. Because that’s the cumulative effect of the stories–the otherworldly aspect of their settings can come off as magical realism. In the daytime. But in the dark, each offering is like a tender slice of a bad dream.
Aftermath of an Industrial Accident is now available wherever books are sold.
What’s your favorite scary story? Tell us on our social media or here in these comments.
featured image a composite containing imagery via Mythic Delirium Books
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.