Wednesday 30 July 2014

Dark Review - Equilibrium Overturned

Equilibrium Overturned Review

By Casey Douglass

(I was given a free copy to review)

Equilibrium Overturned from Grey Matter Press is billed as a collection of tales that are defined as ‘horror-laced science fiction and dark fantasy’, some verging on the more realistic end of the spectrum, others more supernatural in their designs. Reflecting on this as I write these words and scanning down the list of stories, I find myself nodding in agreement with this assessment. It also occurs to me that nearly all of them would make terrific episodes for The Outer Limits or X-Files, two of my favourite shows.

Each story shows humanities struggle against the odds when the natural order of things is turned upside down. As a consequence, there are few happy endings here. Fans of unhappy endings or at best pyrrhic ones will feel right at home with Equilibrium Overturned.

A brief summary of the stories:

The Final Testimony of Molly Ryder by Jeff Hemenway, is a great start to the anthology and deals with crime, punishment and the ability of the mind to meld with another’s. 

Amnion by John Everson, illustrates the dangers of questing after youth when the rest of the world might not be ready for such a thing.

Martial Law by JG Faherty, depicts a strange parade that threatens to topple the biggest organisations of power in the modern world.

Through the Ghostlands by Rose Blackthorn, is a haunting tale of desolation and lives stopped in mid-flow.

The Collected Syliva, Volumes 1 to 1388 by Geoffrey W. Cole, tells the tale of a futuristic couple that are on the search for their new home.

Perfect Soldiers by S.G. Larner, describes the desperate plight of humanity as an evil force threatens to invade the world, the only resistance being found in horrible acts of our own.

Wombie by Martin Slag, is a naturalistic tale that merges nature with other designs that result in nothing but horror for one group of people.

No-Man’s Land by Roger Jackson, a tale of the horrors of war made worse by the unwholesome practices of elements in the trenches.

The Alamo Incident: From The Chronicles of Timaeus Shields by Sean Eads, the tale of a man sent to investigate the force that has been killing soldiers left right and center at the Alamo. The truth is far worse than history led us to believe.

The Butcher of Gad Street by Stephen T. Vessels, shows the forces of good and evil in direct conflict as the barometer of human mood and deed swings dangerously into the red.

Queen of Thermodynamic Equilibrium by Josh R. Vogt, depicts deep space and a future where death has almost been eradicated. This doesn’t please everyone however...

Compartmental by Jay Caselberg, what begins as a train journey and a reflection on the way the human mind files away experience dissolves into a deep tale that reveals what we might truly be looking for.

This is not a Horror Story by Tim Waggoner, a strange trip to the DMV turns into a fight for survival.

Sunrise by Tony Knighton, shows the health of an ailing child failing as the world around him begins to decay and slip from humanities grasp.

All very good stories, but as with anything, a handful struck me harder than others. I think my favourite was Queen of Thermodynamic Equilibrium, as it was set in a pure space environment with all manner of technology and other doodads around it. It also achieved some great friction as science and religion clashed (as is usually the way).
The Final Testimony of Molly Ryder is my second favourite. I have always been interested in other realities, whether virtual, parallel or whatever. The story also kept me guessing until the end which is another thumbs up from me.
Finally I would choose The Alamo Incident: From The Chronicles of Timaeus Shields as another personal favourite. I am not big on American history and don’t much care for it in the scheme of things. I couldn’t help finding the mixture of the mundane gritty setting with the strangeness of what is happening intoxicating however.

I would say that I didn’t dislike any of the stories but some I felt a little bit indifferent to. Just personal preference at the end of the day. 

I give Equilibrium Overturned 4/5. A satisfying and dark read, high in strangeness and grim situations but not enough to tickle my horror gland fully. Visit the Grey Matter Press site here for more information.