August is coming to an end, and here in Austin that means the perfect marriage of scorching heat and drenching humidity. It's no wonder us here at Space Squid read so much and don't get out very often. Some embrace the heat, but at the end of the day, autumn always means one thing: winter is coming. No, not that winter. The real winter. With winter coming, we often find insecurities creeping up on us. Two years ago this week marked the anniversary of J. R. Hamantaschen's first published collection, You Shall Never Know Security, which many regard as a gem of horror lit. We're inclined to agree. Filled with (unlucky) thirteen stories, You Shall Never Know Security, is a journey through a series of crazed narrators, each with their own set of problems. Most of the stories are marked by jarringly broken social interactions and failed encounters between opposite sexes, playing on the gnawing fear of rejection that every human harbors. While some of the stories are very polished and memorable, there exists a few cracked eggs in this baker's dozen which can slow you down or bore you. When the stories are properly juxtaposed and you flow from one narrative to the other, still nursing the fear and insecurity from the last page-turner, then you really feel the magic Hamantaschen has made happen in this collection.
Beyond that, it's next to impossible to sum up the collection in a sentence, so there are brief synopses below. If a few of the summaries pique your interest, I recommend you pick yourself up a copy and explore the text -- you won't regret it. The actual publishing is very well-done, with crisp pages and a nicely-sized font. You will drink in the stories like water with how easily they're read, with a few exceptions.
1. “A Lower Power” - A woman experiences a bizarre relationship with a supernatural man. Starts out cliche but holds its own.
2. “Wonder” – A strange, scathing narration that leaves you excited for the rest of the book. One of it's most iconic pieces.
3. “Endemic” – A sci-fi narrative with a team of scientists who create rape-eliminating robots, and the social implications of such.
4. “A Parasite Inside Your Brain” – A horrifying piece that bears the dimmest (and only) glimmer of human spirit and self-actualization in the collection.
5. “Come in Distraction” – The last British man on Earth uses his accent to pick up chicks.
6. “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction” – Written like a court case, this is a rather experimental piece that cuts the book in half. Not the strongest story for the middle, but it has substance.
7. “Sorrow Has Its Natural End” – One of the most emotionally powerful stories in the book, this piece is about a blind man whose confusion about himself, his new friend, and his condition cause a complete cataclysm of his already-dark world.
8. “Jordan, When Are You Going to Settle Down, Get Married and Have Us Some Children?” – This story is about a man who shits demon children. You'll want to read this one.
9. “There Is a Family of Gnomes Behind my Walls and I Swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Any Longer” – This story had a definite Lovecraft feel, especially when it busted out the word "eldritch" (the H.P. marker) early on. The narrator trusts his friend's story about treasure behind the wall of their kitchen. Like most stories in this collection, it doesn't end well for either of them.
10. “College” – Arguably the weakest story in the collection, it's barely a story at all, but more of a harangue. A typical story about morality, and a button that kills a person and rewards its pusher with money, the dialogue between the two characters in the story drags on incredibly too long and bores the reader.
11. “Something in the Misfortune of Friends” – We've all been to an awkward party or wedding. In this story, an alienoid creature takes control of a human at one of these awkward ceremonies and literally feasts on the awkwardness that unfolds as the narrative continues. At this story, the collection begins to lose a lot of its steam.
12. “Nothing” – A reflection about the narrator's brain, this story lacks a plot and keeps spinning its wheels as the reader gets closer to the end of the book.
13. “There Must be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere” – An interesting note to end the book on, this story focuses on a public mass murder (a very real topic in this day and age) and the guilt associated with surviving.
If you're looking to introduce more insecurity to your life, and devour a great recent collection of horror from a dark contemporary mind, then this is worth dropping a few dollars for. Find a physical copy here at Amazon or download the eBook version.