Remember Why You Fear Me
By: Robert Shearman
A woman rejects her husband’s heart— and gives it back to him, still beating, in a plastic box. A little boy betrays his father to the harsh mercies of Santa Claus. A widower suspects his dead wife’s face is growing over his own. A man goes to Hell, and finds he’s roommate to the ghost of Hitler’s pet dog. Giant spiders, killer angels, ghost cat photography, and the haunted house right at the centre of the Garden of Eden.
Seems pretty fitting since Hallowe’en is around the corner, eh? ChiZine Publications kindly sent me a copy of Robert Shearman’s book for review; the book is available for purchase this month. Just a bit of background, Shearman has quite a diverse background in writing, from theatre to television shows (perhaps most notably known for writing the series 1 episode “Dalek” for Doctor Who). This book is a collection of stories, the author’s fourth.
Remember Why You Fear Me is quite an interesting collection of short stories; while the volume is categorised as dark fiction, not all of them are necessarily steeped in horror. Many of stories touch on themes about growing up, falling out of love and family, all of which made for an especially interesting read. Shearman’s stories are reminiscent (to me, at least) of Neil Gaiman’s and Catherynne Valente’s storytelling in his ability to take simple scenarios and everyday items and completely turn them on their heads, making the stories wholly unique. Who knew that the bathtub, heartache and the act of grieving could have such a sinister underside to them?
Shearman’s prose is also thrilling to read because of the way he draws the reader into the story: he often puts the reader into the thick of a situation or the middle of a character’s journey and the reader learns about environment/dynamics/character headspace/the strangeness factor along the way. It makes the reading experience interesting because the reader finds him- or herself wondering ‘Oh, what’s next for this character?’ or ‘Okay, what’s different or off about this place?’ All books should be like this, bringing the reader along for the ride and making them care about what happens next but reading these short stories is like exploring a new world and added to the overall experience.
I’m not going to individually review each short story; suffice to say they are all unique and the range of the narratives, point-of-views used shows Shearman’s range and ability to write from those perspectives and styles. Some stories obviously interested me more than others; my favourites included “Mortal Coil”, “Damned if you don’t”, “Elementary Problems of Photography (Number Three): an Analysis, and Proferred Solution”, “Good Grief”, “Cold Snap”, “Pang” and “Favourite”. “Custard Cream” gave me Kafka-esque vibes as I was reading and by far the freakiest story I read in this volume has to be “George Clooney’s Mustache”–the title makes you wonder but the story by far creeped me out the most.
Overall Remember Why You Fear Me is a trove of short stories that is both highly entertaining and introspective. I would highly recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for something to read leading up to Hallowe’en.