Dark Book Review – Peel Back The Skin
Review Written By Casey Douglass
They live down the street, in the apartment next door and even in our own homes. They are the real monsters, and they stare back at us from our own bedroom mirrors.PEEL BACK THE SKIN is a powerhouse anthology of terror that removes the human mask from the real monsters that walk among us, those who stare back at us from our own mirrors. PEEL BACK THE SKIN begins a new chapter in the man as monster saga that started as soon as humans first walked upright and evolved into the killing machines they are.
Peel Back The Skin is an upcoming anthology from horror masters Grey Matter Press and one in which the focus of the horror zeroes in on the evil that humans are capable of, whether assisted by the supernatural or not. In its pages are fifteen stories, all of them taking the reader to a “horror destination”. Some stories take the back roads, others burn down the interstate at 150mph.
For the most part, I enjoyed all of the stories. Some authors had a more appealing style to me personally, but even the ones that didn’t, I could appreciate what they were doing and how they did it. I will talk about the six standout tales for me personally:
I think my favourite story is Charles Austin Muir’s – “Party Monster”. The story begins with a confession but only paragraphs later, gets spiced up even more by the character creating mystical sigils to aid him in his goals. What unfolds is a tale of reality bending carnage that all serves to highlight and explore the unresolved issues of the lead character and the concepts he holds dear. Trippy and brutal, with the added esoteric element of sigils. I really enjoyed it.
Next up is Erik Williams’ – “The Long Bright Descent”, a tale that focuses on two characters racing each other on seemingly strange terms. One has to agree to the terms of the other, whether to be chased or to play a game of wits. Night and day play their role too, and there are some strange and ancient powers at work. I enjoyed The Long Bright Descent because it had me scratching my head and pondering, while also enjoying the dance of hunter and prey, a great combination.
Jonathan Maberry’s – “Mystic” is another great tale, this one featuring a guy that can see dead people, and that has a unique way of helping them deal with their unresolved issues via tattoos and violence. As all good main characters, it is a burden as much as anything, but his sense of compassion drives him on into the fiery pain of vengeance. A gritty and hard-hitting story.
A lot of the stories in Peel Back The Skin feature some gore and violence but a couple did stand out for being particularly “nasty”. Graham Masterton’s - “The Greatest Gift” had a scene in which the female lead character did things that had me grimacing as I read, which is a rare thing. Yvonne Navarro’s – “Superheated” was an arid tale of kidnap and torture in which the victim was as unaware of what was going on as the reader, until the truth was laid bare. It didn’t make me grimace like The Greatest Gift but it certainly stays with you once you've finished reading.
As I said, these are the stories that I wanted to give special mention to, but there wasn’t really a bad story in the bunch, just some I clicked with more than others. If you enjoy variety in your horror, whether that variety comes in pace, location or theme, I think you will find something to like in Peel Back The Skin’s pages. I give it 4/5.
Visit the Peel Back The Skin page on Grey Matter Press here for more information.
Book Title: Peel Back The Skin
Publisher: Grey Matter Press
Release Date: 7th June 2016
I was given a free copy of the book to review.