4 out of 4 stars
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TALES from the AETHER: Extraordinary Tales of Dark Fiction, Dark Humor, and Horror is a collection of wildly imagined short stories by award-winning author Matthew C. Woodruff. The dark central theme aside, Woodruff’s twelve stories explore a plethora of emotions ranging from love to loss, fear, joy, hope, even incomprehension - as portrayed in the first story, ”The Dark New Year.” The stories are also set around certain holidays in the year.
“The Dark New Year” is the story of a young man who wakes up on New Year’s Day only to find his world shrouded in darkness, literally. In “The Alban Eiler,” two adolescent girls share the same fate on Easter, despite being born thousands of years apart. “The After Life” tells the lighthearted tale of a person whose mundane life was nothing compared to the afterlife that followed. “The Color of the Soul” is about a police sergeant with the peculiar ability to see a person’s soul. He gets a chance to see what his soul looks like on a Halloween night. These unique tales and more embody the author’s skill of examining the depths of fear in the human mind.
TALES from the AETHER was a well-written and executed book. The writing was straightforward, often witty depending on the story, and easy to follow. The stories appeared well-researched, which made them as relatable as they were entertaining. The inclusion of funny stories with lighter moments, despite the dark and ominous central theme, made for a compelling and balanced reading experience.
One of my favorite things about the book was the author’s use of powerful illustrations that aptly matched the haunting collection’s ominous mood. I also liked how quickly and deftly the author developed the characters and plot. Woodruff’s understanding of the art of the short story shone through with how quickly scenarios and critical characters were polished. Each story was immersive within the first few paragraphs, and each situation was enthralling in its own way.
I could hardly find anything to dislike about the book. It appeared professionally edited with minimal grammatical errors, which in no way detracted from the overall quality of the book. The character development, plot execution, and editing were all top-notch, earning this book a 4 out of 4 stars rating. If you enjoy character-driven stories of the horror and dark humor variety about individuals in wildly imagined worlds, you should not miss out on this book. It contains only rare borderline profanity and no sex scenes. A remarkable collection from a talented author, TALES from the AETHER is a book that can be read and enjoyed over and over again.
Tales from the Aether
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