17 May 2020

Review || Dark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer

Each year, people all over the world celebrate special festivals and days, shining light on what they wish to remember and revere. But sometimes, inhabitants of the dark arrive with the desire to disturb proceedings. Dark Celebrations is a collection of twelve short stories... and the holidays will never be the same.

Dark Celebrations has taking beloved and memorialized holidays and given them a uniquely dark twist. The collection comprises of twelve short stories centered around one of the holidays, from the adoration of Valentine's Day to the perhaps lesser Hallmarked holidays like Labor Day. Each of the stories focuses on a teen-to-twenty-something protagonist windmilling their way through the new challenges that the holiday unexpectedly provides. 

My favorite of the collection was "Hungry Ghosts". Given a list of ten tips for surviving the Hungry Ghost Festival with advice like the always rational "Do not wander after midnight" and "Do not turn around if a voice calls you from behind.", Lara and Ray have arrived in China for a vacation together. Instead of making her feel closer to Ray, Lara feels unfulfilled by her relationship. When a strange boy appears on their path, leading them to a river instead of back to town as promised, the ghosts of China are more tangible than expected. This story has a great anecdote about respecting cultures and traditions that aren't your own. 

I was also surprised to enjoy "Independence Denied". I don't find myself often satisfied by Lovecraftian stories, but this one was entertaining.  In the midst of a variety of natural disasters, Brad, an assistant to a team of marine biologists tracking sharks, spots sea animalsincluding Mandy, the shark—spinning in a churning vortex. In the midst, he sees an octopus-headed winged behemoth but only for a second. That second was enough to get the attention of Delilah Love, another assistant in the office, and follower of what can only be an Elder God, come from the depths.  

Whether your chosen flavor of horror is zombies, werewolves, mummies, or even mermaids, Demmer has a story here for you. Each has a wonderfully eerie spell to be cast as Demmer gleefully runs amok on your favorite holidays.