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BOOK REVIEW:  “Gratia Placenti”

Gratia Placenti, or For the Sake of Pleasing, is a Stoker nominated collection of dark fiction from the authors of Apex Publishing. In my honest opinion, it is one of the finest collaborations of short stories I have read, thus far. As a follow up to their previous collection Aegri Somnia, Gratia Placenti features thirteen deviously twisted tales, from some of the most talented dark fiction writers, including Geoffrey Girard, Athena Workman, Debbie Kuhn, David Niall Wilson, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Teri Jacobs, Adrienne Jones, JA Konrath, James Reilly, Bev Vincent, R. Thomas Riley, Neil Ayres and Mary Robinette Kowal. These stories delve deep into abstract realms of the bizarre and disturbing, drawing strange, even abstract, portraits of existence for deeply troubled characters, in both familiar realities and alternate ones. This series of tales grabs you by the throat and slowly drags you over the threshold of their nightmares. The words are indulgent and rich, dripping down a frosted window pane like a mixture of blood and cognac, each vignette captivating with a distinct, powerful voice of its own. The tales are unique, distinctively resonating the song of each individual author’s thumbprint that sticks with you, a painful black tattoo to remember them by…absolutely brilliant!

How refreshing it is to read a collection of work that has not embraced the torture porn mentality of the present day! No, this is a classic, classy, intelligent compilation that portrays a suave sophistication in the realm of dark literature, proving that subtly can be far more disturbing than blunt-force trauma. I have found myself growing more and more critical of short fiction, as the years pass, and the multitude of shock factor gore increases. At times it seems that the days of Hitchcock are forever gone as authors attempt to cater to the desensitized, jaded masses instead of taking them under their wings and teaching them the finer points of good literature. However, every once in a while, a troupe of renegade artists, such as the force behind Apex Publishing, rise up out of the pits of hell to wield their swords in opposition to the gluttonous monotony inflicted upon the unwitting. Blood is spilled and with it glowing founts of lush words meant purely to indulge the true literary enthusiast, the bibliophiles, the logolepts of the world. Gratia Placenti is a gift to readers such as this, combining a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale quality with a modern grasp on the desperation of the soul that is exquisitely beautiful in the pain rendered by such sweet simplicity. Apex Publishing, and the authors of Gratia Placenti deserve a standing ovation for their achievements and I hope the honor of this year’s Stoker award does indeed go to them.

From a Vietnam vet haunted by the ghosts of those he murdered overseas, to a cleaning woman aboard a space station desperate to buy her dying son a new pair of lungs, each and every story contained within Gratia Placenti is noteworthy in its own distinct way. As I mentioned before, this collection is one of the best I have read, to date, and I truly look forward to reading more work by each of the included authors. In a world painted red with the obvious, Gratia Placenti is welcomed drink of absinthe amongst the ordinary. I highly suggest you grab a glass while they last.

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