Book Review: “Wounds” by Nathan Ballingrud

woundsFew genres are better suited to the short story format than horror, and this latest collection by author Nathan Ballingrud is a perfect example of why. The 6 stories collected here are all very strongly written, with interesting lead characters, compelling plot developments, and supremely creepy and imaginative settings. None of them are bad, but obviously some are better than others, with the 2 closers, “The Visible Filth” (which is set to become a movie) and “The Butchers Table” both being particular standouts. The first follows a bartender who becomes embroiled in a dark mystery after answering a text on a cell phone left behind by a patron, while the latter takes us on a Colonial era ship whose passengers are on a voyage into Hell itself in the hopes of dining with the Devil. Both of these stories could have easily worked as novels, and are so well-written as to leave one wishing they had been longer; but perhaps that is a sign of a great short story, one that ends when it needs to without overstaying its welcome, but that leaves the reader longing for more. All of the stories here are thick with atmosphere and a continuous sense of dread, leaving the reader creeped out and perhaps a little on edge, if not exactly scared. This is one of the strongest recent short story collections of any genre, in a year that is already full of other great ones, and reminds me in all the best ways of Clive Barker’s seminal Books of Blood volumes. ★★★★★ – Sean Farrell

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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