Book Review: You Shall Never Know Security by J.R. Hamantaschen

12632143Title: You Shall Never Know Security
Author: J.R. Hamantaschen
Genre: Horror, Short Story Collection
Publisher: West Pigeon Press
Publication Date: 2011
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

For years, J.R.’s stories have been acclaimed throughout the underground horror world. For the first time, these surviving stories have been collected in one anthology. These are stories that challenge expectations and reject the staid conventions of the genre. These are stories that don’t compromise.
Above all, what readers understood and appreciated was that these stories were about something. These are stories that, in the finest tradition of H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, Dennis Etchinson, and T.E.D. Klein, articulate what you’be always suspected: that life is a losing proposition.

You Shall Never Know Security is a horror short story collection by author J.R. Hamantaschen. I’m a big fan of horror novels, as you may or may not know. I’m especially fond of ghosts, but I’ll take anything as long as it gives me chills. Zombies and gore fests aren’t always my preferences, but I enjoy them once in a while. J.R. Hamantaschen’s collection is unique in that it dares to venture outside the box of what’s considered normal and reasonable for the horror genre. It tells us creepy stories about parasites residing in the protagonist’s brain, companies coming up with plans to catch sexual offenders by using androids, people searching for portals to other dimensions, and much more. The collection is very diverse, but one thing remains the same throughout all the stories: they’re scary.

All right, not all of them are equally scary, but some of them really gave me goosebumps. “A Parasite Inside Your Brain” made me feel highly uncomfortable, and “Come in Distraction” gave me genuine chills. Don’t go in expecting the usual – zombies, slayer fest, ghosts. You won’t find them in this book. What you’ll find instead are concepts, the slow, gripping build-up of tension and terror, the terrifying truth about things we sometimes encounter in daily life, the aftermath of horrific events, plausible ideas gone wrong. The author finds horror in the mundane and by doing so pulls the readers deeper into the stories, gradually removing them from their normal, safe world, and throwing them into a world where evil lurks around every corner, sometimes in the most innocent of forms.

Overall, this collection is intriguing, and definitely worth a read. Not all stories worked as well as others though, in my opinion. My favorite, by far, was “There Must Be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere.” This story talks about the aftermath of a monster attack. Three characters hide in a closet, contemplating on what to do next. Tension is cutting-edge from the start of this story. Things don’t work out as planned and many years later, we see the same characters trying to deal with the traumatic events of that day, and searching for the truth, and what truly happened. I thought this story was the most unique, and the strongest. It was also one of the simpler stories to understand, and I think its simplicity definitely made it stronger. Some of the stories I had to read twice to fully understand, but this one I wanted to read twice just because I enjoyed it so much.

My second favorite was “Sorrow has its Natural End”. I thought that story was both amazingly sad and also very disturbing. The protagonist in this story is still a young man when he gradually grows blind and has to find a way to deal with that. Another one I enjoyed a lot was “A Parasite Inside Your Brain”. This one didn’t leave me, even as I put down the book to go to bed, or when I got up the next day. It lingered on in the back of my mind, a single, disturbing paralyzing thought. I also very much enjoyed “There is a Family of Gnomes Behind My Walls, And I swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Any Longer” although I really wish that one was longer.

What didn’t work for me, was “Jordan, When Are You Going To Settle Down, Get Married and Have Us Some Children?”. I did enjoy the story, but not as much as the rest of the collection. I liked the premise behind “Endemic” but wasn’t entirely convinced with the execution.

Writing short stories isn’t easy. It’s completely different from writing a full-length novel, and I applaud everyone who can get as much characterization in his short stories as J.R. Hamantaschen can. He builds up tension quickly, reaching new heights of creepiness by page three or four of the story, something some authors don’t even manage to achieve in 200 plus pages. Combined with the rich imaginary, the absence of any ‘villains’ in the narrow sense of the word in most stories, has got me very impressed.

Don’t go in this looking for actual plots with start-middle-end. Some stories are built up like that, but others are more conceptual or abstract, and these deserve attention as well. The author isn’t scared to step out of the box, throw out established conventions and try out something new.

You Shall Never Know Security stays true to its name. After I finished reading this book during the first and second sitting (I had to read it twice, jut to ‘get’ everything), I couldn’t look at ordinary objects anymore without thinking ‘what the heck are they going to do to me’. If you want to turn the regular world upside down, this book is a decent choice. Dark fiction at its finest, a hommage to both Lovecraft and Poe, but truly original in its own way. Recommended to all dark fiction and horror fans. If you want to feel disturbed, and lose any sense of security you might have, try this book. You won’t be disappointed.

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