The darker the better…

Ready for a little horror? I bet you thought there would never be another book review here? That’s fair. Even this review was meant to be posted earlier this week and it’s late. But, consistency isn’t what keeps you coming back. My guess is that you like what I write and, if you’ve been keeping up with our Recommended Reading page here and through the newsletter, you probably like my taste in books. Thing is, I’m as slow a reader as I am a writer, so reviews will come…over time. There will be more, rest assured. 

Today, let’s talk about my latest read, Stitches, a collection of short stories from prolific horror author Sylvester Barzey. I have had the wonderful honor of working with Barzey on our Voices of Color podcast, as well as on one of the Voices Of… collections, Voices of Romance. His story from Voices of Romance, Shades of Blue, appears in Stitches alongside five other short stories and three flash fiction pieces—all horrifying in their own way. Even though I consider Barzey a friend, please know these are my unbiased thoughts—spoiler free, for your enjoyment’s sake. 

Horror is, of course, one of my favorite story genres, and I made sure to read every one of these stories between the hours of two and four in the morning. You know, to really amp up the terror. Even if we weren’t friends, I’d easily find myself in awe of Barzey’s extensive horror knowledge. We’re kin in our appreciation of the genre, and his massive appreciation shows in his work. He demonstrates an understanding of horror, both in writing and in speech, that even puts this spooky lady to shame. 

The Grimy Bits

No work is perfect, and this is no exception. When I started reading the first story, ‘Blood Note,’ my inner editor did a lot of screaming. I couldn’t help but feel that each story could have used at least one more look-over. ‘Blood Note,’ in particular, read to me a lot like something you’d find earlier in a writer’s career, so my guess is it’s one of his first short stories. (Of course I didn’t ask. Who do you think I am? An adult who asks for answers to my questions? Psh.) 

Things like spelling, misused words or homonyms, and out of place punctuation appear throughout the collection, and I initially found myself struggling to overlook them. But, these last couple of years have taught me not to be such a prescriptivist about ‘the King’s English.’ The technical aspects, the little tweaks my inner-editor wanted to make could have made the writing tighter, but the stories are where Stitches shines. 

The Shiny Bits

Like I said, Barzey knows and loves horror, and it shows in the stories he tells. Even his “romance” piece is more horrific than romantic. It seems his favorite scary creature is the zombie, since zombies appear in two of these stories as well as in his series Planet Dead. That said, he’s got ghost stories, dark psychological thrillers, cannibalism (one of my favorite horror subjects), and more served up on a platter in Stitches. 

If I had to pick a favorite, I’d go with ‘Lisa’, which appears just under halfway through the collection. The following story ‘Adam’ would be a close second. ‘Lisa’ reminds me a lot of an episode of Black Mirror, but that’s all I can tell you. In fact, there was something familiar about each story, even as they were so different from one another. For me, that’s just another testament to Barzey’s love of horror. And it probably helps that we seem to have similar tastes (minus the zombie thing).  

The Final Bits

Reading Stitches was a special experience for me because I haven’t read a full book, shorts or otherwise, in an embarrassingly long time. Not only was I eager to get back into the practice, but I was thrilled to jump back in with horror from an author I’m already a fan of. Despite the protests of Editor V, I can easily say these stories will tickle the fancies of all sorts of spooky lovers. At one point, I even wondered if I’d have nightmares—the rarest of all compliments from me. 

So, grab a copy today and create your own delightfully dark nightmares tonight. You can find Stitches anywhere you buy ebooks, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. Find more from Sylvester Barzey through his website: 

Read it, then come tell me what you think on Twitter. Until then, stay spooky, friends.