Collectively, these dark stories will not just give readers the chills, but have them looking over their shoulders with suspicion.
Erik Hinrichsen paints the bleak, compelling landscape of a city and its inhabitants in his collection of dark fantasy short stories The City.
The City is composed of three sections, each containing a number of stories, perhaps better described as vignettes. None of the vignettes are longer than six pages, and many run less than half that length. Hinrichsen deftly introduces a multitude of nameless citizens of the city, nearly all with a dark side or mysterious secret of some kind.
These are men and women who are making a turn away from the brighter, optimistic side of life, or, in some cases, have already done so. There are also glimpses into characters who might be immortal, a detail that, aside from offering fascinating perspectives on humanity, shows its greater significance later in the book.
Hinrichsen has an undeniable talent for crafting these short tales; his vivid descriptions set and fulfill the grim tone:
One day he happened to glance in a mirror as he was absentmindedly brushing his teeth and saw an old man looking back at him. In a moment of acute panic, he realized that time was indeed running out and there was still so much work to do. This was reaffirmed by his oncologist a short time later.
With sometimes morbid turns, The City is not for the easily disturbed.
In part three, Hinrichsen accelerates the pace, with most of the stories clocking in at a brisk two pages. The conclusion brings a sense of connectedness and completeness to the book that is sometimes lacking in parts one and two.
While entertaining, the earlier stories can sometimes feel like mere exercises in description—an entertaining anthology of dark tales, the literary equivalent of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside, with no thread connecting the vignettes except their location in the fictional city.
But while most of these stories could easily stand alone, Hinrichsen is building toward something, and the fact that there’s no table of contents points toward his true intention—to view this book as one whole, made up of many pieces.
The City is a perfect book for fans of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and other horror fiction who are looking for something slightly different. As a collection of stories, it’s a solid addition to the ranks of dark fantasy literature.
Taken as a single, cohesive work, however, Hinrichsen’s collection transcends the sum of its parts and becomes the kind of book that doesn’t just give its readers the chills. It will also have them looking over their shoulders, suspiciously, at things that once seemed innocent.
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