Weak and Wounded
Just a month ago, I reviewed a compilation of author Brian James Freeman's short stories entitled Dreamlike States. I had fun with the book, but wished that Cemetery Dance Publications didn't use the same stories over and over in their compilations. The author set me straight on that one, explaining that he had sent me some of his works published by other means and not by Cemetery Dance. Three weeks later, I received a new compilation that will be available in a week or so called Weak and Wonderful. I wondered what to expect.
Weak and Wounded features five short stories by Brian James Freeman with an introduction by Ron McLarty, cover art by Vincent Chong and interior artwork by Glenn Chadbourne. This compilation features stories in which the main characters have suffered a horrible blow to their psyches, leaving them...as the title says, weak and wounded.
We start off with a story I have read before that never fails to shock me. Running Rain is told through one man's perspective. At first glance, this is a story about a man suffering from the loss of his son at the hands of a serial killer. The whole town is suffering after having lost so many of their young adults to the murderer. The man's marriage is suffering as well, but not from the victim's grief we would expect it to be suffering from. No, this man has a secret...one so shocking that no matter how often you read it, you still can't help but stare at the pages mouth agape. But if you aren't paying attention, you might miss the explanation altogether.
Next up is Marking the Passage of Time in which a young couple spends their precious few last moments together as the world ends around them. As John and Julie wait for the end, John thinks back to the moment that his father warned him about how people mark the passage of time throughout their lives and what that had done to him. John can only hope that he and his wife can endure things much more gracefully.
Where Sunlight Sleeps is another one of those chilling short stories from Freeman that I have had an opportunity to read before. In this tale, a man takes his son on a journey through his early years with his wife. Although the man suffers throughout the journey he repeats weekend after weekend, his love for his son outweighs the pain and sense of loss the journey marks for him. The boy's therapist thinks that this journey will eventually jar something from him, putting him on the path toward recovery. But what if that something is something his father would like to forget?
The Last Beautiful Day is a tad on the creepy side, relating the tale of a couple whose baby was born dead. As a sort of therapy, Louis has been volunteering at the hospital. That's not surprising. It's what he does at the hospital that might creep the reader out.
The book closes with another oldie but goodie, Walking With the Ghosts of Pier 13. At first glance, this is a tale about a young man trying to cope with the loss of his brother to an act of terrorism. This is another one of those stories where the truth is not revealed until the very end, and you'll miss the whole point of the story if you aren't paying attention.
In my opinion, this is the most enjoyable compilation of Brian James Freeman's work that I have read to date. Every single story was entertaining and had tremendous shock value. I didn't mind rereading stories I had read in past compilations because these tales represented some of his best short story writing. The artwork by Glenn Chadbourne featured at the end of each story just enhanced the chill factor of each tale, bringing the scene imagined by the reader to life. I had a blast reading Weak and Wounded and have no doubt that this book will be one of Cemetery Dance Publications' top selling compilations in no time.