The Gothic Shift by B.D Bruns
Reviewed by Casey Douglass
I haven’t reviewed fiction for a long time, so if any of this review comes across as awkward or stilted, you’ll know why. I also think spoilers are one hundred times worse for the written word than films and TV so have done my best to not give anything key away. In the interests of being honest, I was given a free copy of the book to review, I didn’t buy it myself. Anyway, onwards and downwards.
The Gothic Shift is a collection of four macabre tales by B.D Bruns.
The first tale, The Ghost of Naked Molly, is set in New Orleans on the night of the Louisiana purchase. The appearance of a naked woman on the roof of a wealthy landowner causes him many problems, which he simply doesn’t need as he plots and schemes to increase his standing and wealth.
The second, The Swamp Hive, takes place during the American Civil War. It follows the tribulations of a rebel cook who takes great pride in his ability to fill the mens’ stomachs with something to eat, but lacks any other real confidence or fortitude. Not taking part in the actual fighting, his eyes are open to the things on the periphery. It is with this open gaze that he discovers something far more scary than fighting the Union. Something...or things, that sneak through the destruction unseen, with stealth, speed and claws.
The third tale, Blue Caribou, takes place in 1859 and is set on an exploratory ship that becomes stranded in Arctic ice. Some crew are lost in the accident, but as the cold begins to set in and the rations become scarce, madness, paranoia and murder all play out against the uncorrupted white scenery.
The final tale, Wax and Wayne, is set in the current day. A tired waitress working in a restaurant has to deal with a glutton of a man who comes in and progressively eats more and more shrimp. He appears to maintain, or even lose weight, whilst the waitress seems to put it on whilst eating less and less.
I really appreciated the variety in the stories, each using a different theme and setting. This meant that each tale didn’t really outstay its welcome or become “old” before you had finished it. B.D writes in a very easy to read manner, and his description of place and emotion soon conjure in detail the scenes in your mind. I’m not the biggest fan of American History, I can take it or leave it as a rule. B.D does make it a very alive setting however, and I did find myself enjoying it mainly due to this.
My favourite story was The Swamp Hive. I loved the “menace” that intertwined with the more familiar “war story” vibe. It was also very nice to see the meek cook grow as a person as the tale progressed, pushing himself well past his usual limits, in part because he felt that things couldn’t really get any worse. It also had that element of “fortress” about it, literally as it was set in Fort Henry, and metaphorically, the known and the unknown overlapping in a “strong” place that was all too weak.
The story I least liked was Wax and Wayne. It’s set in modern times, and even though it has a nice hint of the weird and macabre about it, I just didn’t particularly gel with it. It was not written worse than the preceding tales, I think I just preferred the ones set in the past. So again, a testament to the job B.D has done if it makes someone neutral about American History turn his back on the only modern day story!
I’m rating The Gothic Shift 4/5 mainly for the reason that personally, it didn’t really scare me or make me feel unnerved. This is just down to me and my own horror/macabre proclivities, and I’m sure it would unnerve someone else. The Swamp Hive is the story that stuck with me the longest after reading, as this had the most pleasing horror elements as far as my own tastes go. I would certainly recommend The Gothic Shift to horror readers, and especially to those who might not usually go for the more Gothic style. So all in all, good stuff!