Tales from the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

Tales from the Fire Zone - Jonathan Maberry, Tom Weiner

This is, I think, only available in audiobook, but it's fairly short, a bit over 3 hours, and contains 5 short stories. Two are available individually, one is set in the world of one of Maberry's series, but stands just fine alone, and one was written especially for this production. The other is a "true" local folktale from Maberry's neck of the woods, related via a Holmes pastiche - this is the only one that didn't really work for me.

 

For a short story collection, even a short one, an 80% hit rate is exceptional.

 

More under the cut, if you are so inclined.

 

 

Like Part of the Family

 

This one's available separately, and the main character introduced here is going to be the protagonist of a future series. I hope so, I'll read it. Really, this is one big long windup to a punchline, and on several sites the blurb or reviews give it away before you get there, but it's effective and I'm not going to spoil it here. I really liked the protagonist, Sam Hunter, a PI on a mission to get a man to stop harassing his ex-wife.

 

I highlighted a ton of cute quotes, but they can have a spoiler tag (to be sure, they may look spoilery, but they aren't in fact spoiling the *real* punchline of the story. Still, caveat emptor. But you should get a feel for Sam's voice from these.

 

 

I looked at them, at their grinning, evil faces. My nuts were trying to crawl up inside of my chest cavity. I mean…fucking vampires?"

 

 I tore the heart from his chest. Turns out, vampires need their hearts.

 

 

Skye laughed. “Christ no. And she’s not a succubus either. She’s just a nagging, soul-draining, passive-aggressive, codependent bitch.”

 

“Wow. You’re really a chauvinistic prick, aren’t you?”

 

“Better than being pussy whipped.”

 

I dropped it. I had bigger fish to fry than trying to bring this macho jackass into the Twenty-first century. Namely the fact that I was in a roomful of vampires.

 

I know I keep harping on that, but really…it’s not the sort of shit that happens all the time to me. Or, like…ever.

(show spoiler)

 

 

The narrator (Tom Weiner) is not my all time favourite (he's not bad, or anything, just not my favourite), but I have to admit he did a fabulous job on this one.

 

Doctor Nine

 

"They blew into town on a Halloween wind."

 

In which we meet Bethy, who is 11 and would like to be a serial killer. She's been researching hard on the internet and practicing on animals, but now it's time to move up in the world.

"The night followed them like a pack of dogs."

 

It's an atmospheric story that's been widely anthologised, so of any of these it's the one you might have read. At it's heart, it's really a story of faith. In monsters, and in oneself, and particularly when those are the same thing.

 

A lot of people in reviews say "I wish this was a novel, I wish we could follow Bethy as she grows up, I wish we could find out what's real" but I think it's pretty close to perfect as it is. Cheesy metaphors and all - cheesy or not, they work, it's very very atmospheric.

 

Property Condemned

 

Set in Pine Deep, the small town featured in Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man's Song, and Bad Moon Rising, this is a chilling psychological ghost story. It takes place 30 years before the books, but works quite well as a standalone, and definitely encouraged me to read the series.

 

Simple well worn plot, but a very different perspective on it: Four kids go off to visit the local haunted house.

 

"Apparently, three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse are sissies!"

 

Again a story about faith and belief and self-awareness, but this one is somehow more tragic than the one before.

 

Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost

 

Holmes and Watson pastiche apparently based on a "true" ghost story, where a ghost's testimony was actually entered into the record and used to gain a conviction.

 

Not much to say here, I'm not the biggest Holmes fan (unless he's being played by Jonny Lee Miller), and this is essentially just using them as a vehicle to tell the ghost story (in a form pretty close to the Wikipedia page.) It's a pretty fascinating tale by itself, so this one really didn't work for me.

 

Cooked

 

Written just for the audiobook.

 

This one is a winding little short story, another tiny tragedy. At one point I thought I knew exactly where it was going, and then it took a turn somewhere entirely else. And then it doubled back on me and took me straight to the black place I thought I saw coming.

 

Overall

 

I've always enjoyed Maberry's work, although so far I've only read a couple of the Joe Ledger books, and one of the Benny Imuras. This has once again really encouraged me to a) finish the Joe Ledger series and b) Check out Pine Deep.

 

As an intro to Maberry's writing, this is a pretty good one. There's a bit of variety here, you don't need any knowledge of the series going in, even the one story set broadly in the same setting as one, and for the most part, the stories are satisfyingly creepy and dark without tipping over into slash and gore.