Reviewed by Marcus Hammond
In the six short stories contained within Roland Allnach’s anthology Oddities & Entities the dark, violent shadows of life are illuminated. Each story skillfully delves into the lives of seemingly normal people to emphasize just how horrific life can be. By employing paranormal aspects, Allnach reaches into an appalling darkness, yet still ends up showing that hope is ever present.
A majority of the stories presented in this collection grab the reader from the very beginning and don’t let go until they reach a resolution. In “Gray” the main character Dave uncovers a strange plot that alters his way of life indefinitely. As a regular guy who is prone to getting speeding tickets Dave longs for change. On the advice of his mentally handicapped cousin, Peter, he decides to invest in an illegal radar jammer to tip the scales against the law. In a simple act of defiance, Dave tests his new radar jammer inside his house, which unknowingly releases a small, telepathic being from the confines of his brain. As Dave learns about the existence of Gray, he begins to form a new perspective on life. Unrestrained by the limitations Gray had placed on his life, Dave begins to take chances and enjoy life. He, however, never sees the pain and anger building within his handicapped cousin, Peter.
Throughout the story Allnach relates Dave’s struggles to understand both the presence and the impact of being freed from Gray’s symbiotic relationship in a way that is both supernatural and realistic. Allnach uses Dave’s gray invader as a metaphor for all the barriers we create in life that keep us from attaining our deepest desires. This mixture of paranormal and realism creates a very thought-provoking addition to the anthology.
While every story in this collection may not be thought provoking, “Elmer Phelps,” shows Allnach has a keen sense for originality. While vampires are arguably diluted choice for a paranormal character, Allnach brings a fresh view to the vampire canon. As small children Elmer and his sister, Cassandra, were bitten by a bat. This completely random event alters Elmer’s quiet, isolated life in dark, appalling ways that will have the reader’s stomach in knots. While this story is violent and dark, Allnach’s subtle use of the vampire tradition helps emphasize the mental turmoil Elmer faces as his world changes.
Each story in this collection is uniquely supernatural and grotesquely violent, however, Allnach proves time and time again that those aspects help emphasize the mental strength of each of his characters and accentuate the importance of hope in a dark situation. The violence and slow pacing of each story may dissuade some from this excellent collection, but those who do dive into the darkness will feel challenged, shocked, and ultimately reward by Allnach storytelling.
After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by All Things That Matter Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.