Book – Fragments


Susan Omand loses sleep, in a good way, over the creepy tales in Fragments by C R Smith and Victoria Snelling...

I want to start this article with a statement for clarity. I know C R Smith, one of the co-authors of the book, and have worked with him on a couple of review sites before. I really like his article writing style but this is the first chance I’ve had to read published fiction by him, so I was looking forward to seeing what was on offer.

There are eight stories in this collection, four from each author, all different but loosely connected by a horror theme. They are also very wide ranging in subject matter and location and pull no punches, so don’t expect an easy read even though the collection is short. The fact that these are also short stories helps in the impact they present, because there is little room for padding or a slow burn so you find yourself right in the middle of things straight away.

I enjoyed the whole collection because I like my horror to be psychological rather than gory. Having said that, my favourite of the stories, Imelda by C R Smith, wasn’t really horrifying at all in the conventional sense. It was a truly sci-fi apocalyptic story and the full futility and emptiness of William’s situation was brought home in the beautifully handled writing, with the irony of the pills being a wonderful touch. The story that I found the most viscerally horrifying was Midwinter, also by Smith, as the scenario of home invasion and the reportage style of conveying the story through emails and transcripts of text messages and interviews reminded me of a “found footage” film in the way it made the reader feel more of a participant than an observer. This is an indie horror flick in the making. Of Snelling’s stories, my favourite and by far the most psychologically disturbing was Innocent. The build up of the thought processes behind the eventual reaction of the mother, her justification of doing what she did, doesn’t bear thinking about and yet is totally understandable to the point that you empathise with her. There is a real twisted logic that makes it car-crash reading – you can’t stand to look or to look away.

As co-authors, Smith and Snelling work well together as their styles are similar enough to flow well, but still different enough to be unique voices. My only slight criticism of the set up of the book is the order the stories are in. I got so engrossed in Midwinter which, as I said, was written in the form of emails and interviews, that I missed the page break on the Kindle and got confused by the start of the next story, also by Smith, The Late Shift, written in the same email format. Other than that, this is a collection well worth spending your money on and I’m now keen to read more from both of the authors.

Image - Chris Smith

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