Take equal parts of Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Rod Serling, mix them together, and add a bit of a can-do, go-to-hell attitude, and you’ve got an idea of what Neil Gibson is doing here. Some people are going to call this horror, but you won’t find vampires, werewolves, or dark creatures of the Fae roaming these pages. These monsters are of the more human variety, and as such, all the more terrifying.
From the opening story about a cry for help in an internet chatroom, to the tragic tale of a moral drug-runner’s life lessons, to a Japanese trainman’s revenge for his shattered dreams, each of these tales gives a chilling glimpse into what the human monster can be capable of. Sometimes, the monster is external, sometimes internal, but no matter which, the price is often life-changing and malevolent. Additionally, his monsters aren’t only of one type or ethnicity. He shows us that this darkness reaches all corners of the globe.
Gibson shows a Stephen King-like skill in his attention to character, each coming across as deep and compelling, sketching a person's entire life in a few sentences. And, also like King, several of Gibson’s stories are loosely interconnected, and part of the fun is seeing how they link (when they do), but the standalones roll along under their own dark power, as well. Additional volumes evidence more of the connections being set up here.
Will this be for everyone? No. These are gritty and disturbing tales (I’m betting Gibson would excel at writing noir tales, as well), and the morality shown in some of them is the same that fills asylums all over the word. But, taken together, they make a nihilistic kind of sense on Gibson’s world, and if you have trouble sleeping after reading these, it’s only a testament to his strength as a storyteller. Not his character as a person . . . I hope . . .
Twisted Dark . . . It’s a good name for this work. And, if I ever got the chance to meet Gibson at a con or show, I’d buy the man a drink. But, I’d still watch my own glass very closely.
VERDICT: FIVE out of FIVE Long, Dark Nights of the Soul