Review of Dark Day Dreams by James Hawthorne

Dark Day Dreams is a collection of short stories, focusing as you can probably tell from the title on the darker side of things.   Each story is heavy on narration (not a bad thing) and adds to the day dream feeling whilst reading each one.  As with short story collections, there is something to suit every taste, but by that token not every story will be for everyone.  There were a few that stood out for me and I will do a brief synopsis of those (the review would go on forever if i did one for each!)

The Midnight Kid Rides Again
What happens in dreams?  Paul, an average Joe type, is suffering from depression which seemingly makes him more vulnerable than most to the presence of Sleep Demons.  Sarnathan is most powerful during the night of the winter solstice and seems set on having Paul as his prize.  With the help of the “midnight kid” the antithesis of Sarnathan, Paul is taken on a ride through the dream world planes trying to run, hide and fight it out until it’s time for him to wake in the real world.  As a dream world, it can be forgiven for being on the fantastical side, a huge number of mythical being are fitted into the short pages leaving your head spinning, but then the whole story is on the same fast pace so you just kind of run with it and despite initially feeling confusing it does all fall into place.  The use of modern pop culture may date it in the future, but for the now, it does bring a little humour. It’s an exciting opener to the book that’s for sure.

Beast in Show
Karl a mountain beast, comes to LA to experience life in the pure human world, a chance encounter leads him to the world of stand-up, where mocking the mountain life he grew up in brings him fame and fortune.  Whilst leading a seemingly charmed human life, the beast is never far from the surface and needs sometimes must.  Joined by his mountain love the two must learn to adapt and there is an interesting take on jealousy.  The pace and tone is steady and the fact it is a slightly longer story than the first two allows it to settle into itself.  I found this a very enjoyable with some real dark laughs in places.

By far and away my favourite of the book, the start worried me that it may be dreary but the opener relating to Alzheimer’s becomes an aside – the revolutionary drug created to treat it is the star of the story, misused and abused as a recreational party drug named as “glitch”  starts to have a disastrous impact on the brains of the users when there is no Alzheimer’s damage to repair – it gruesome and captivating and a massive page turner, in fact I forgot I was reading a short story.  This does, in my opinion, have the capacity to hold it’s own as a standalone story and it’s deserving of the slightly longer length – really exciting premise and imagery that will stay with you for certain.

There are of course many others, one’s like “A Holy Amputation” weren’t really for me, i think it was just a bit too near the mark in relation to current affairs for my comfort zone, and Gun Control raises it’s head on more than one occasion – being from the UK I think it would be wrong of me to comment particularly on that contentious issue.  

I did do a bit of eye rolling at Hungry Women, whilst i enjoyed the concept of the Nymph, I just didn’t go in for the “women can only be happy when they are skinny” premise (having been both at times myself).

There is a hell of a lot to enjoy in this book and a number of the stories do have unexpected twists which are heavily sci-fi in places which was right up my street – the Outer Limits came to mind with some.  As I said at the start with any short story collection there will be hits and misses for each reader and I think the two pretty much balanced out for me.

I do have to say this however, whilst it doesn’t impact on the quality of the story telling, there are some really serious formatting issues going on.  It may be the devices i was reading on (kindle cloud reader and kindle for iphone – not that it should matter) but there were page breaks mid sentence, words joined together, letters missing off the ends of words, story titles starting on a different page to the story and large paragraph gaps.  Each time that happened it really pulled me out of the story. Some are perfectly formatted but others need work really.

All in all this was an enjoyable read and I am grateful for receiving a review copy.

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