A Trio of Tales from Creeping Hemlock Press

I recently received three publications from Creeping Hemlock Press. These tales were dark, disturbing, fairly brief, and pretty original.

The Shallow End of the Pool by Adam-Troy Castro may be the most extreme example of parents hashing out their differences through their kids. When two parents split up, the father took and raised their daughter Jenny and the mother did the same for Ethan. But the children were raised, trained, and even medicated to destroy each other. When the kids are 16, their parents (who Jenny only calls "Daddy" and "the Bitch") take them to the desert, bind their arms behind them and gag them, seal them in an empty swimming pool (the top covered with a wire fence), and leave them to kill each other.

This 56-page tale is very brutal and surprisingly involving. Everything is told from Jenny's point of view, and she is both aware what her parents are doing to them while still struggling to please her father. The Shallow End of the Pool pulls no punches, leaving the reader feeling sickened, shocked, and having experienced something very, very original.

The other two short stories (called "chapbooks" by Creeping Hemlock Press) are two tales of zombies. Thin Them Out, written by Kim Paffenroth, R.J. Sevin, and Julie Sevin, looks at the aftermath of the aftermath of the zombie invasion from two sides. Human survivors battle against zombies and -- as so often happens in these tales -- each other. Alternating with their plight is a nameless zombie who wanders while flashes of his former life pop in and out of his head. This is a pretty grim story, though there is some some gallows humor (the zombie uses a hole in his chest to carry some items) .

The third tale is Flesh Is Fleeting... Art Is Forever! by Gary A. Braunbeck. Pretty much straight comedy (with some gore tossed in), this tale is a parody of pretentiousness. Written as a review in the "Arts and Entertainment" section by a Wendell Shakelton-Bailey III, this story is a snob's take on the first post-apocalyptic zombie classical music concert. There's little subtlety here -- the subtitle is "Some Bullshit Will Continue Even After the Dead Wipe Us Out" -- but there are plenty of chuckles as the critic looks down his nose at everyone "common" and revels at the ingenuity of the decomposing orchestra.

Overall grades:

The Shallow End of the Pool: A-
Thin Them Out: B-
Flesh Is Fleeting... Art Is Forever! B

Reviewed by James Lynch

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